Geof Bodine Racing
5 August 1997GEach January the media gets to go 'kick the tires' of a few Winston Cup and Busch teams courtesy of the fine folks at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The Charlotte Media tour visited one team that had a new bounce in its step. That new found bounce was slowly beaten out of the team as the realities of financial struggles leading to diminishing on-track performances drew the team to a funk that almost brought it to its knees. That team is Geoff Bodine Racing.
Bodine started the year with one of the most talked about acquisitions in motorsports when he hired the newly retired Lee Morse - ex-Ford Motorsports guru. Bodine hired Morse as the general manager whose duties were to handle the day-to-day operations of Bodine's racing operations leaving Geoff to worry driving the car.... after all Bodine himself admits that he wasn't really the guy to be worrying about the day-to-day operations of the race team.
The team also hired on a new crew chief in the form of Pat Tryson after Paul Andrews, the late Alan Kulwicki's Championship crew chief, went with the Kranefuss team. Tryson came out of the Rudd Performance shops.
Bodine then hired on Bob Glidden - ex-Ford Pro Stock drag racer - to help develop motors for him and, according to 'the plan,' three other teams on a contract basis. Glidden's task was to look at Winston Cup motors with a fresh pair of eyes and see if any of the tricks that the highly competitive NHRA's Pro Stock class would work in the Winston Cup arena.
It was with this new powerful team behind him that Bodine set off on his 32+ date Winston Cup schedule and twenty-six race Craftsman Truck Series schedule with driver Tammy Jo Kirk.
Bodine rolled into Daytona on a high that he probably hasn't felt for a long time. But the QVC Ford got tangled in a wreck that was not of his making and the score sheet showed a 34th place finish.
The team continued its growth and things started to look pretty rosy long about Richmond when the team marked its best finish of the season- second place- and moved into eighth in the series points standings.
The team also got a customer for the Glidden R&D program when the Stavola brothers started using the services of Glidden ... all Geoff Bodine needed was two more motor customers to help pay for that operation.
As the team rolled out of Texas it stood 7th in the points but the pressure of carrying the load would soon start to show.
Bristol could only be considered a total disaster when Bodine and Mr Excitement - aka Jimmy Spencer - tangled. Post incident comments by Bodine brought the wrath of the sanctioning body down upon him in the form of a $5,000 fine. Bodine paid his money and went to Sears Point looking to get back on track.
Sears Point started off great, and a seventh place start looked like a good sign, but ten laps into the event Bodine would lose a motor -- something that would become all to common in the following weeks.
Talladega- boom motor; Charlotte - a wreck during practice forced him out of the car and into the condos above turn one where he watched his brother, Todd grenade a motor; Dover - wreck; Michigan - boom another motor; California- boom motor.
The battered and beleaguered team, now 30th in the points, started talking about bad financial problems and how it needed an additional sponsorship or something to get the cash flow back on the plus side.
The team rolled in to Daytona and Geoff Bodine marked a carer first. The QVC Ford did not qualify for the Firecracker 400. A dejected Bodine said, "This is a first for me, to not go fast enough to qualify. I've won here at Daytona and it just won't feel right to be watching a race."
Geoff Bodine Racing had hit bottom.
It was during this time that Bodine founded a 'Partnership Program' with two, as of yet, undisclosed partners. These partners supplied the money it would take to go to New Hampshire, and beyond - through Indy where Bodine again DNQ'd.
The undisclosed deal, that is still pending 'due diligence' matters, is waiting for all of the lawyers to make sure all T's are crossed and I's are dotted and should be announced in short order, perhaps as soon as the Watkins Glen event.
What we do know about the deal is that Geoff will drive the #7 car for the next three seasons and will help fund the operations of Geoff Bodine Racing, including a 6 race '97 Craftsman Truck program for Geoff's son Barry. All marketing and sponsorship matters will be handed by the new un-named partners.
Lee Morse, talking on behalf of Geoff Bodine Racing spoke about the hard times. "With the funding being so sparse it's been pretty rough. Quite a few folks have left us. It's been frustrating for sure."
Though the Glidden R&D engine program has, "contributed significant performance gains," according to Morse, the team has turned to Pro Motors for race power while using the Glidden in-house power for qualifying.
The Stavola operation stopped using Bodine's motor services several months back though. "They were happy with Glidden's assistance," Morse said.
This leaves one to wonder where the expensive program will end up with lease motor programs readily available elsewhere.
Which way will Geoff Bodine head with its new found partners? Well, according to Morse, "We're hoping for a better future than the short past has offered and we are very excited about the prospects."
Let's hope, for the sake of Bodine and the other single car operators out there, that "hoping" will make it so.
Mike Snow -- The Auto Channel