Atlanta: Geoffrey Bodine - NASCAR spotlight

Geoffrey Bodine eager to show some speed at Atlanta DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 9, 2004) -- Some records seem destined to last forever, like Bill Elliott's qualifying marks of 210.364 and 212.809 mph, respectively, at Daytona International...

Geoffrey Bodine eager to show some speed at Atlanta

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 9, 2004) -- Some records seem destined to last forever, like Bill Elliott's qualifying marks of 210.364 and 212.809 mph, respectively, at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway.

Geoffrey Bodine (No. 03 Team EJP Chevrolet) holds the title to one such lap -- with the 197.478 speed he posted in November 1997 during qualifying for the NASCAR premier series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

The pavement on the 1.54-mile track was brand new and Bodine took full advantage of its grip.

"I don't know if it was the perfect lap but it sure was one of the wildest laps ever run there," Bodine said. "I was able to run it flat all the way through turns 1 and 2 and I was planning on trying to do the same thing through three and four. I had to just come off the throttle coming off turn 4 to keep it off the wall so it wasn't perfect.

"I am also very proud because that is a record that will last a long time with the rules the way they are and the track continuing to age."

It's highly unlikely that Bodine or any other driver will come close to matching that speed in qualifying for Saturday's inaugural NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series EasyCare Vehicle Service Contracts 200 but one thing is certain: Atlanta will be one of the fastest venues on the series -- alongside Daytona and Texas Motor Speedway.

"The speeds will be high and that will offer a chance to pick up the draft," said Bodine, who finished 10th in last month's 2004 season-opening race at Daytona. "I am fortunate to have a lot of laps around the track, so we will have a head start against most of the field.

"Some of what we know will transfer over from the (NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series) cars but the trucks are really totally different. So all you can do is make the best educated guess and fine-tune it from there."

Bodine, who finished third in the 1990 NASCAR premier series championship, won 18 times with more than $16.1 million in career winnings. He also added six NASCAR Busch Series wins.

But Bodine also is a charter member of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series -- as an owner as well as a driver.

Bodine finished fifth in the series' first race at Phoenix International Raceway. The Chemung, N.Y., native fielded full-season efforts in 1995 and '96 with Dave Rezendes. In 1997, the seat in Bodine's Ford was occupied by Tammy Jo Kirk, the first female competitor on the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series whose 11th-place finish at Topeka that year remains best by a female driver in the series.

Although he has yet to win a series race, the 53-year-old Bodine has come close, finishing second on three occasions. He came within two laps of victory at Martinsville Speedway in 1995 before a turn 4 shoving match with Mike Skinner (No. 42 Toyota Tundra Toyota) gifted the win to Joe Ruttman.

"What you saw (in 1995) was a lot of (premier series) drivers came over and ran some of the races. It was a brand-new series and everyone wanted to be part of it," said Bodine. "And you had a lot of top-notch drivers in the series back then -- winners and champions from every form of racing you could think of.

"But as the Cup schedule grew, it made it harder and harder for the drivers to come over and run truck races."

Shortly before the 2004 season began, Bodine got the opportunity to drive Peter Prescott's Maine-based Chevrolet, thereby extending a NASCAR career in which Bodine believes still has some victories -- and maybe even a championship -- left.

It's the same philosophy that fuels the competitive drive of NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series rivals Skinner, Bobby Hamilton (No. 4 Square D Dodge), Ted Musgrave (No. 1 Mopar Dodge) and Steve Park (No. 62 Orleans Racing Dodge).

"What you have now is a real demand for the young drivers over in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup garage so it has given many of us older guys a chance to come to the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and have some fun," Bodine said.

-nascar-

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Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Bill Elliott , Bobby Hamilton , Steve Park , Mike Skinner , Geoffrey Bodine , Ted Musgrave , Joe Ruttman , Tammy Jo Kirk