NASCAR racer Geoff Bodine is attempting a comeback at 53—in a sport that typically favors the young at heart and age.
But if Feb. 17, 2002, when he finished an impressive third in the 2002 season-opening Daytona 500, is any indication, then Bodine’s return to Winston Cup racing gets the green flag.
“If I get in a car to race, I’m going to be competitive, and I think I proved that at Daytona,” Bodine says. “I’m in good shape, both mentally and physically. I still feel young and act young. I also have the experience in racing; I’ve been doing this for a long time.”
Since around 1954, actually, when he raced in the micro-midget division at a track that his father owned in his hometown of Chemung, N.Y. Bodine was born with a passion for auto racing, and he was a solid fixture on the Winston Cup circuit throughout the 1980s and 1990s.
But these days, a different kind of racing occasionally pulls Bodine from the hot asphalt to the snowy slopes. While watching the 1992 Winter Olympics, Bodine lamented that the U.S. bobsled teams weren’t competitive enough, so he decided to lend both financial and engineering support.
Bodine became a part of Bo-Dyn Bobsleds, partnering with an engineering firm from Connecticut called Chassis Dynamics to improve the bobsledding equipment.
In the 2002 Winter Olympics, Bo-Dyn Bobsleds carried U.S. competitors to three medals—a gold for the women’s team and a silver and bronze for two men’s teams.
Just days after his remarkable run at Daytona, Bodine was in Salt Lake City to take part in the medal ceremony for the U.S. Olympic bobsled teams.
“It was quite an experience,” he says. “I enjoyed seeing these kids earn their medals as much, or more, than what I did at Daytona. This is a whole new experience for me.”
Still, Bodine’s heart beats more to an oval bank than a bank of snow. Despite suffering serious injuries during a wreck in the 2000 season-opening race of the Craftsman Truck Series, Bodine returned to the sport he loves just a few months later.
Though he originally was scheduled to run just six races this year on the James Finch team and under the sponsorship of the Miccosukee Indian Gaming Group of Florida, he hopes his Daytona finish will help add more funding for additional races. And for 2003, Bodine has designs on a full Winston Cup schedule.
“That’s what we’re aiming for,” he says. “Hopefully, good things will start happening again.”