NASCAR great Bodine part of USABS Hall of Fame induction
LAKE PLACID — USA Bobsled and Skeleton will induct five new members to its Hall of Fame on Dec. 17 in Lake Placid. The ceremony, to be held at Mount Van Hoevenberg at the conclusion of the day’s World Cup bobsled races, will highlight four athletes along with NASCAR legend Geoff Bodine.
Bodine, a winner of the 1986 Daytona 500, first got involved in bobsledding after viewing the 1992 Winter Olympic Games, where the United States competed with sleds purchased from European teams.
“That didn’t sit well with me,” Bodine said in a statement. “With our technological know-how in this country, why couldn’t we develop our own sleds? If we’re getting equipment from our competitors, you know they can’t be very good or why would they sell them to us?”
Bodine came to Lake Placid after the 1992 Albertville Winter Olympic Games. He met with the athletes, experienced the sport first-hand at Mount Van Hoevenberg on the 1980 Olympic track and then began the process of creating American-made bobsleds solely for the U.S. men’s and women’s teams.
He partnered with Bob Cuneo of Chassis Dynamics and the late Phil Kurze, President of Whelen Engineering, two Connecticut companies involved in auto racing. Together, they became the Bo-Dyn Bobsled Project, an American-made mission to bring international bobsled glory to the red, white and blue.
By the 1994 Winter Olympics, Team USA was able to compete with Bo-Dyn sleds. After USA bobsledding had not won an Olympic medal since 1956, the team came within 0.02 of a second of the podium in the 1998 Winter Olympics, on Bo-Dyn sleds.
In 2002, at the home Olympics in Salt Lake City, Team USA mined gold in women’s racing, along with silver and bronze medals in the men’s competitions, all in Bo-Dyn equipment. This was followed by a silver medal in Torino in 2006.
In the midst of success, one of the greatest U.S. bobsled pilots ever, Steve Holcomb, developed his skills and won World Cup and World Championship medals in Bo-Dyn sleds.
On a chilly night at the Vancouver/Whistler Games in 2010, a 62-year gold medal chase ended with Holcomb’s four-man team, in the sled he christened “The Night Train,” dominating every heat on a fast and dangerous course.
The celebratory images of Bodine in the midst of Holcomb, Steve Mesler, Curt Tomasevicz and Justin Olsen became iconic.
Four years later, Holcomb, in the next Bo-Dyn sled iteration, known as “The Night Train 2,” raced to a four-man silver medal in Sochi.
“We all had a great sense of accomplishment,” Bodine said. “We did it our way, the American way. I’m a great believer in this country and our system. We showed what can be done when everyone pulls in the same direction. In a sense, what we accomplished on the ice over those years illustrated the best of the United States, something I’m most proud of to this day.”
Bodine will make the trip to Lake Placid from his Florida home for the induction. He will be joined by the following:
— Tristan Gale Geisler, a 2002 Olympic champion in skeleton. She was the first Olympic gold medalist in history as the sport made its debut in Salt Lake City.
— Vonetta Flowers, who became the first African American and the first Black athlete from any country to win a gold medal at a Winter Olympics. Her achievement occurred in 2002.
— Randy Jones, who came to bobsledding after standout careers in football and track at Duke University. He won an Olympic silver medal in the four-man race in Salt Lake City 2002.
— Jimmy “Nitro” Morgan, the pilot for the four bobsledding Morgan brothers from Saranac Lake. Jimmy died tragically in a finish-line crash at the 1981 World Championships in Cortina, Italy.