Bodine, Lucas flaunt bobsled skills
Bodine laid down a fast first run, then held on to edge Joe Gibbs Racing phenom Joey Logano on Sunday and capture the first race at the fourth annual Geoff Bodine Bobsled Challenge. Lucas beat Bodine in the spectacular second race.
Said, who had won all but one of the first six races since the unique event's inception, finished sixth in the first race and was eliminated in the second.
"First, we've got to keep in mind what it's for. It's a great cause," said Todd Bodine, who also was fastest in qualifying Saturday. "You get a bunch of racers together, and the one thing they all want to do is win. So to come out of here with a win, I'm tickled. It's the first time. Boris has been the king, and I finally got to dethrone him."
Geoff Bodine 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.
Todd Bodine, with brakeman Patrick Furman, of nearby Plattsburgh, N.Y., was the only driver to break 50 seconds on both runs of the first race down the difficult Mount Van Hoevenberg track. That left his older brother scratching his head.
"Last year he ran [poorly]," Geoff Bodine said. "The sleds were as even as we could make them this year, and he just drove really good. You could tell. Some guys would be doing really well on the first part of the course, they'd hit some walls, and it slows you down. At the end Boris had a good run, but his first run wasn't good. You've got to have two good runs to be on the podium."
Bodine and Furman finished with a combined time of 1 minute, 39.18 seconds to beat Logano by 0.40 seconds. Still, Logano again proved he's a quick study. He struggled in his inaugural appearance a year ago.
"I'm definitely better this year," Logano said. "I guess I needed about four more tenths. Todd was really fast. I went down the chicane really good the first run, and then I got so excited I forgot the rest of the track and nearly flipped. But this is so much fun. I mean, who gets to drive a bobsled?"
NASCAR Nationwide driver Larry Gunselman's second run was the fastest of the race but left him in third, just 0.02 behind Logano.
"It's the day to be a close third, but to be on the podium is an awful neat experience," said Gunselman, who finished 0.01 behind Todd Bodine in qualifying. "I'm thrilled."
Lucas, who competes in NHRA's top fuel class, was fourth, followed by Funny Car driver Jeg Coughlin Jr., road racers Said and Eric Curran, and NASCAR Whelen series star Brian Loftin. The bottom four sleds were eliminated after the first run, which left ASA driver Danny Bagwell, top fuel drivers JR Todd and Bob Vandergriff, and Whelen racing series champion Philip Morris watching.
It was the end of an impressive run for Said, whose late father drove U.S. bobsleds in the 1968 and 1972 Winter Olympics.
"It's pretty hard to win every year," he said. "You've got to lose sooner or later. I guess maybe I'm getting too old."
Or maybe too cold. The overnight temperature plummeted below zero, and on Sunday it struggled to reach 10 degrees under a cloudless Adirondack Mountain sky.
The second race was an elimination contest featuring four drivers from NHRA and four from NASCAR. Lucas edged Todd to earn the NHRA berth in the final run against Bodine, who remained the class of the field in eliminating Geoff Bodine, Said, and Logano.
For the finale, U.S. coaches Brian Shimer and Bill Tavares acted as brakemen because Lucas and Todd Bodine were piloting Bo-Dyn bobsleds used by the U.S. team.
And that provided a dramatic finish.
Lucas and Tavares went first, and the speeds increased substantially in the sleeker sleds. Lucas finished nearly 2 seconds faster than in any of his previous runs, and he was lucky to finish. He nearly flipped in one of the final turns before steering hard to prevent it as Tavares' head whipped sideways, scraping the ice-covered wall.
"Oh my God! Oh my God!" Tavares said as he walked away from the sled.
"I'm thinking if I wreck this thing, he's going to hate me," Lucas added. "They're going so much faster. These sleds that these guys race are intense, they're fast. I've got so much respect for these guys driving them."
Not to be outdone, Todd Bodine continued his mastery of the tricky layout, posting even faster splits than Lucas as he rocketed toward the bottom. But after building a lead of a quarter second, Bodine wasn't as lucky entering the same turn that had nearly derailed Lucas -- his shiny red sled flipped to give Lucas the triumph.
Shimer, a five-time Olympian, said it was the first time he had ever flipped as a brakeman.
"I had an old-time racer tell me once, 'Boy, if you can't win, be spectacular," Bodine said with a big smile. "We were spectacular and we didn't win."
Vandergriff was even more spectacular. Earlier in the afternoon, his sled also flipped, but at the midpoint of the track, and slid nearly a half-mile before stopping.
"It hurts. Good thing I have a football neck," Vandergriff said. "I've never been upside down in a race car. I don't want to do that anymore. That wasn't any fun."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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