Todd Bodine edges Gunselman by .01 seconds in brother Geoff's event

Updated: January 3, 2009, 7:20 PM ET
Associated Press

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- Larry Gunselman stared at the timing board in disbelief.

"Dang!" Gunselman said. "He got me by a hundredth. We were up by 15 hundredths for a while. Sandbagger!"

Former Craftsman truck champion Todd Bodine and brakeman Kenneth Stout, of Ogdensburg, N.Y., beat Gunselman and brakeman Matthew Golovach, of Morrisonville, N.Y., by that slim margin -- 52.20 seconds to 52.21 -- to win qualifying for the fourth annual Geoff Bodine Bobsled Challenge on Saturday.

When Todd Bodine climbed out of his sled, a swath of red tape across the nose of his helmet nearly covered his eyes as darkness fell over the Mount Van Hoevenberg track.

"That's how I rode the whole run," Bodine said with a laugh. "It's fun. To beat Larry by a hundredth, that's what racing's all about. Everybody's here having fun, but we're all competitors. We all want to beat each other. We got it done. Bragging rights for tonight."

Todd Bodine's older brother, Geoff, started the Bobsled Challenge in an effort to raise funds for the U.S. men's and women's bobsled teams. It features NASCAR and NHRA drivers piloting specially made bobsleds, with members of the New York State Army National Guard serving as brakemen.

Road race star Boris Said, whose late father drove U.S. bobsleds in the 1968 and 1972 Winter Olympics, has dominated the Bobsled Challenge with five wins in six races since the event's inception. On Saturday, Said finished a distant ninth in qualifying, besting only three other sleds.

"Everything was pretty clean about the run," Todd Bodine said. "I just ended up being the fastest one. Boris is sandbagging. He sandbagged today so he could be one of the first ones to go tomorrow."

The ice is fastest early in the day, and Said was already thinking ahead.

"This wasn't my best run, but it felt pretty smooth," Said said. "Tomorrow, we'll be able to polish the runners."

Top fuel drag racer Morgan Lucas finished third in 52.40 seconds. He was followed by NASCAR Whelen racing series champion Philip Morris, NHRA Funny Car driver Jeg Coughlin Jr., road racer Eric Curran, Joe Gibbs Racing phenom Joey Logano, and Whelen series star Brian Loftin. NHRA top fuel drivers JR Todd and Bob Vandergriff, and ASA driver Danny Bagwell finished behind Said.

It was Curran's first appearance at the event, and he won't soon forget it. He flipped during his final practice run, cracking the side of his helmet as his sled came to a halt on its side.

"I just rolled the thing over," Curran said. "I came out of one of the left-handed corners at the bottom and kept the sled too low, and it set me up wrong for the exit of the next right-hander. It just caught the edge and flipped. It all happened too quickly. I couldn't even correct for it.

"It was a wild ride," Curran said. "First you slide up and then you slide back down. Is this thing ever going to end?"

Curran flipped only moments after a four-man sled of VIPs from Lumber Liquidators, one of the event's sponsors, also turned over. Everyone walked away from both accidents.

The U.S. Bobsled National Championships, a four-heat competition over two days, is being held in conjunction with the Bobsled Challenge. The Bobsled World Championships will be held here in late February, and a berth in that prestigious event was at stake for both the men and women with the 2010 Winter Games just over a year away.

After two heats, John Napier of Schenectady, N.Y., led Steve Holcomb of Park City, Utah, by 0.10 seconds, with Mike Kohn of Chantilly, Va., another 0.11 behind. Holcomb and Todd Hays already have slots locked up for worlds, so it's between Napier and Kohn for the final men's spot. On the women's side, Bree Schaff of Bremerton, Wash., held a commanding lead of 1.37 seconds over Phoebe Burns of Lake Placid, N.Y. Jamia Jackson of Lake City, Fla., was third, 1.71 seconds behind Schaff.


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press