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NASCAR-WCUP: Geoff Bodine Finds Comparison Between Baseball and Racing

24 September 1998

Martinsville, VA---Whats good for baseball also is good for racing, according to NASCAR Winston Cup driver Geoff Bodine.

Bodine was in the second day of a three-day test session in his Philips Consumer Communications Ford on Tuesday in preparation for Martinsville Speedway's NAPA AutoCare 500 on Sunday, September 27. During a break in testing, Bodine reminisced about throwing out the first pitch, on August 24, for a game between the New York Yankees and Anaheim Angels in Yankee Stadium.

"It was pretty exciting," Bodine said. "George Steinbrenner thought it was a pretty neat idea that they get a NASCAR driver involved with the ball club and, since Im from the north, Im a real Yankee.

"I was really surprised that they agreed to do it. And two, it was the real thing. I didnt go out there an hour before the ball game and throw a ball to home plate to someone. I did it right before they were ready to play ball in front of everybody and the players, so it was really special."

Bodine is accustomed to the pressure of competition, but tossing a baseball was different. "I didnt throw it in the dirt, that was the key thing. I asked the players for some advice. They said dont throw it in the dirt. If you throw it in the dirt, they boo ya. So I made sure I didnt hit the dirt, the catcher caught it, everyone cheered and I was relieved."

Bodine hasn't always been a great baseball fan but his interest has been sparked by his visit to Yankee Stadium. He was even watching baseball in his car hauler during a break in practice. He added that he is particularly impressed with the success of Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire who are battling for the all-time home run record and what the chase has done for baseball.

"Oh its unbelievable. They have brought life back into baseball. I dont know what the ratings have been watching those two guys slug away, but I know the ratings on TV have to be high," he said. "You open the newspaper up and thats what you see, those two guys and what they have been doing. Everyones talking about it."

There also is a correlation between what McGwire and Sosa are doing in baseball to what Jeff Gordon is doing in racing, according to Bodine.

"Gordon is kind of doing what those two guys are doing. Hes setting records, prize money, Winston Million, No Bull million, winning all those things. Everyone has their own opinion about whats going on and some people say its bad what Gordon is doing for racing," Bodine said. "It isnt bad. Thats ludicrous. Its good. What Mark and Sammy are doing is great for baseball. We all know that. What Gordon is doing is really good for racing."

Bodine recounted what happened at his fathers track, the Chemung Speedrome, when his uncle dominated the competition.

"I have been on the other side of that. My father used to promote a race track and I had an uncle that won all the races. They put a bounty on his head. The grandstands were packed until somebody beat him. They beat him by putting him over the bank and flipping him, and he broke some ribs and had to go to the hospital," Bodine said. "But people came to see that. To see if someone was going to beat him, who was going to beat him. Whos going to win that money." He believes its the same in Winston Cup racing now.

"I dont see any empty grandstands. I dont see anyone not paying attention to our racing. People are wanting to see someone beat Gordon," he said. "And you know, Saturday night (at Richmond) someone (Jeff Burton) did. It was a good race, a great race."

Bodine hopes he is the one in Victory Lane at Martinsville for the NAPA AutoCare 500 and that is why he decided to test here.

"Ive had a lot of success, but the last few years I havent had much. We have struggled," he said. "Yeah, I want to win here again, and thats one reason we are here testing.

"This team is really getting better and we are running a whole lot better now than we were early in the year. We have the cars better and have a lot better equipment. Everyone is working better together now. We want to take advantage of that."

Reserved seats still are available for the NAPA AutoCare 500 on Sunday, September 27 for $35-$40. Martinsville also has 8,000 unreserved seats that go on sale race morning at 7:30.