By Dominic Aragon
MELBOURNE, Fla. — After competing in 575 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races over 27 seasons, Geoff Bodine is calling it a career.
Bodine, who hasn’t run full-time since 1999, has run part-time since his injury in the then NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Daytona opener in 2000. Although he had a sponsor willing to back him this season if an opportunity arose to run with a team in any of NASCAR’s three series, no deal panned out for the veteran. Bodine describes how his decision to call it quits was not an easy one.
“I hate to use that ‘retirement’ word, but I’m 99.9 percent sure I’ll never drive a racecar again,” said the humble Bodine.
Bodine, 63, ran select races in 2011 for Tommy Baldwin Racing. In his four starts last year, Bodine finished with a best of 30th at the season finale Homestead-Miami Speedway. At that time, Bodine didn’t feel that would be his last start in NASCAR, but he now is saying he will retire from the sport due to a number of factors.
“If you race long enough in racing, you will hit your head,” said Bodine, who has suffered from concussions in racing, “I’ve been in that position several times. I’ve seemed to bounce back from them with very little side effects. [People] might say ‘well, you’re okay,’ but the problem with that is I don’t know what might happen tomorrow when I wake up. I pray every night that I do wake up and I do know who I am. All of my concussions could have some effect on my life.”
Bodine also describes his races as a struggle instead of a success last year.
“I enjoyed the races I was a part of last year, but they didn’t work out the way we wanted them to,” says Bodine. “To get a car capable of running in the top-20 takes a lot of money. [Our equipment] was a 35thplace car. [My entire] career, I’ve been out there racing to win, so just to go out there to race and be a part of it isn’t a lot of fun.”
Bodine expressed interest earlier this year to run the full schedule in the Sprint Cup Series on a full-time basis. Since that opportunity did not work out, however, Bodine has spent a majority of 2012 building his Honda Powersports business in Melbourne, Florida and organizing charitable events.
For Bodine, the most important reason he is hanging up his helmet is to spend time with his family.
“My wife, family, and health are more important than my ego to race,” says Bodine. “I don’t want an injury to throw all of that away.”
Bodine’s accomplishments on the track include 18 career Cup wins with one Daytona 500 victory in 1986, 190 career top-10 finishes, an IROC championship in 1987, a career best 3rd in points in 1990, and being named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998. His on-track performance and career stats speak for themselves and may be able to position him as a viable candidate as a future NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee. But the humble Bodine hopes he leaves a legacy that focuses on his actions off the racetrack.
“I’m happy with my career, I have no regrets. I’ve accomplished a lot in NASCAR, but because of my accomplishments in NASCAR, I’ve been able to do other things which is what I want to really be known for,” explains Bodine. “My accomplishments in the sport have allowed me to build Olympic gold medal bobsleds. My career allowed me to get involved in many charitable groups and it’s also allowed me to go to the Middle East four times to visit our troops. That’s the kind of legacy I want to leave.
“Racing is the reason I could do all of these things, and my life’s not over, so I think it’s pretty hard to write somebody’s legacy until they’re not here. But that’s what I want to be known for.”
Bodine will be eligible for NASCAR’s Hall of Fame in 2014.
I am a co-owner and reporter for TheRacingExperts.com.