Work in Sports
At Talladega, Bodine broke lead-lap slump
Updated: Monday October 16, 2000 6:31 PM
By Ryan Smithson, CNNSI.com
When Brett Bodine crossed the finish line last weekend in the Winston 500 at Talladega, the Winston Cup veteran accomplished something he had not done in nearly two years.
He finished on the lead lap.
Bodine finished 26th on Sunday - lackluster by most standards. But Bodine was the last car running on the lead lap - and finishing on the lead lap was something that had not happened to him since the season finale at Atlanta in 1998. That's a span of 57 races.
The season finale at Atlanta in 1998 was one of the longest days in Winston Cup history for sheer time. The race was rain-delayed for seven hours and only 221 of the 325 scheduled laps were run that day (and night).
Bodine has had it rough the last few years. The 41-year-old is in his 12th full Winston Cup season and his fifth full season as a team owner.
In today's Winston Cup racing, a Winston Cup owner/driver has very little chance of winning. An owner-driver last won in 1998, when Ricky Rudd won at Martinsville. Besides Rudd, no owner-driver has won a race since Geoffrey Bodine did it in 1996. Both Rudd and Bodine eventually sold or disbanded their teams and opted to drive for someone else.
Bodine has not had a top-10 finish since 1997, but he has done extremely well to merely make races with his underfunded, single-car operation.
Bodine's finish in the final Winston Cup points standings has declined in five of the six years since 1994, when he drove for drag racing stalwart Kenny Bernstein. He was 19th in points in 1994, and he finished 20th while driving for Junior Johnson's storied team in 1995. Bodine's 1995 season was Johnson's final one as owner - Bodine purchased Johnson's team that fall, and he began to drive for himself in 1996.
As an owner, Bodine finished 24th in 1996 -- then he began to really feel the pinch as more and more teams switched to multi-car programs. Bodine finished 29th in 1997, improved to 25th in 1998, and slid to 35th in 1999.
The big difference in 1999 was that Bodine missed two races, including The Brickyard 400, which is the second-most lucrative event on the schedule.
Bodine has failed to qualify for five races in 2000 as it becomes even harder to survive as an owner-driver in stock car racing's premier series.
But do not expect Bodine to give up any time soon. His sponsor, Ralph's, will be back in 2001, and as long as the limited funding comes in, expect to see the bright red "11" hauler at Daytona.