Geoff’s Journal: The importance of off-weeks
Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR
In this December 2004 photo, Kurt Busch talks with reporters during Champion's Week in New York City.
(Editor’s note: The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is coming off its final off-week of the 2015 schedule. Geoff Bodine talks about why the time off during the regular season is important for the driver and team.)
DISCLAIMER: Opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule is jam packed. We’re racing most weekends from mid-February to mid-November. There aren’t many weekends off, but when there is an off-week, some drivers keep busy.
Some will race in other series, some make appearances, and others will spend time with their families, which is a great thing to do. If you haven’t noticed, a lot of drivers today are married and have children.
Every driver is different and every one of them likes to spend their down time differently. Some like to stay home, especially if they have children; some may travel and go on vacation.
When I had a week off during the season, I would spend time with the family, of course, but I always wanted to get back to the track. I loved racing so much, I would have raced every weekend in the calendar year if it was possible.
The crew guys are the ones that enjoy the weekends off the most. It gives them time to catch up with things in the shop, with the cars, and preparation. They don’t have to work as many hours during the week as normal too.
It’s a grueling schedule. I don’t think many realize how much time the crew guys put into the racecars; the cars just don’t all of a sudden show up ready for the race.
To be a part of a race team, no matter your function within an organization, you have to love the sport. You have to understand, going in, that it’s going to take a tremendous amount of work, time and traveling.
Time and Commitment
I hired a friend of mine after I bought the No. 7 team. He always told me he wanted to be a part of a race team. That friend, Roy Oliver, was from Connecticut, and wanted to have any role with a team if the opportunity came up. I called him up and told him “here’s your chance, come on down.”
He and his wife, Donna, moved down to North Carolina to be a part of the team.
Image used with permission
He had prior racing experience. He had tried his hand at snowmobiles, had done drag races up north and rode motorcycles. We were at Bristol Motor Speedway for a test one day. After we were done with the test, I told him “alright, big boy, jump in there.” He put a uniform on and borrowed my helmet. Of course, I told him “if you crash the car, you better not come back here.”
But, I gave him the chance to work on a team, work within my organization and even have the opportunity to drive the racecar at a NASCAR-sanctioned racetrack. It was three-quarters of the way through the season, and he said “Geoff, I don’t have a life.”
“Yes you do, it’s called racing,” I told him.
“No,” he said. “My friends; I never see them, I never talk to them. I miss them. I can’t do this anymore.”
So he and his wife moved back to Connecticut. He couldn’t make it one season on a race team. He had the opportunity of a lifetime, but he couldn’t make it one full season on the Winston Cup circuit.
I’m not calling him, or anyone out, or putting anyone down, but I’m showing a first-hand example of how demanding this sport can be and how it can wear down on a person.
Time to Unwind
Going into an off-week, you have time to think about the previous race, and you can reflect on it a little more. It’s a lot easier to enjoy that time off if you are going into the off-week as a winner, of course. It’s always great to win a race, no matter what time of the season it is.
In auto racing, you’re going to lose more than you win—everybody does.
Richard Petty won over 16 percent of his races in Cup, as did I when I raced modifieds, but you end up losing more races. No one is a loser out there, you just don’t win.
If you didn’t win the race going into that off-time, it wasn’t the end of the world. We all understood that it’s just part of the sport.
Drivers are in the constant spotlight, so time away from that spotlight during the season can provide a much needed break. Commercials, endorsements and public appearances have boosted NASCAR drivers to the same status as actors/actresses and other celebrities. It’s a great thing.
But at the end of the day, we are people too, and we enjoy the same things any regular person would enjoy. I was very blessed God gave me the talent to race and the opportunity to race and where to go.
I always told people there’s two of me—Geoff Bodine the racecar driver and the everyday Geoff Bodine. I enjoy going to the mall, shopping, going to the go-kart track with my sons, the movies with my wife.
We’re all Human
With the exception of Charlotte Motor Speedway, we travel every weekend to the track. Understand that because drivers have airplanes and the resources to go anywhere in the world doesn’t mean they do that. We get tired of traveling…we like to stay home. We like to go to dinner, check things out, etc.
I’m not criticizing the fans, but drivers are put on a pedestal. It’s a great thing, but drivers do want to come off that pedestal and be normal people.
Yet, I can guarantee drivers are grateful for the fans and the way they are treated. Drivers enjoy being asked to pose for photos, autograph requests and shaking hands with the fans.