50 Greatest Modified Drivers of All-Time: Geoff Bodine
“1986 Daytona 500 Winner”
Geoff Bodine was the modified champion at Stafford Motor Speedway in 1975, 1977 and 1978. From 1975 through 1980, Bodine entered victory lane on 36 occasions, most of them in the “Big Red” #1 of Richard Armstong. During his stay at Stafford, Bodine became perhaps the most hated in the eyes of the crowd, as he was the first “outsider” to beat the pants off the competition. During one stretch in 1978 from May 12th through June 13th, Bodine won seven in a row at Stafford; in a single season that would see a total of 55 wins to his credit. It was during the Bodine years that Stafford enjoyed extreme success at the gate. Between 8,000 – 10,000 spectators were on hand every Friday night. Some came to see him win, while many came to see if he would lose or the on-track confrontations involving him, which were many.
On one occasion, Bodine was leading the feature and Bugs Stevens made a move to the outside to pass. When Bodine moved up to block, Stevens didn’t lift and it drove Stevens in to the fence. The crowd went wild and, to make matters worse, Bodine shook his fist at the crowd when they booed him. On the next restart, Bob Santos, a good friend of Stevens, turned Bodine in to the wall. Santos was ejected from the race and the speedway but was given a standing ovation by the crowd. On another occasion, Bodine tangled with Kenny Bouchard on a restart. Kenny crashed into the fence and his brother Ronnie felt it was deliberate. During the ensuing red flag period, Bouchard (Ronnie) climbed from his racecar and went after Bodine attempting to pull him from his car to further discuss the matter. The Stafford track crew stepped in and headed off Bouchard and a potential confrontation.
At the conclusion of 1978, Bodine headed south, leaving the Armstrong car behind, to seek his fortune in NASCAR’s Winston Cup Series, driving the Jack Beebe-Racing Hill Farm entry. The stay was short and Bodine returned to the modifieds where he ran a few big races for Lee Allard. After dividing his time between Allard and a southern sportsman (Busch Series) ride, Bodine finally got his break. He won a Grand National event at Darlington and was hired by Dillard Motorsports to run for Winston Cup rookie of the year honors, which he won. When Charlotte businessman Rick Hendrick decided to form a Winston Cup team, he hired Bodine and together they won the 1986 Daytona 500.
In addition to his championships and wins at Stafford, Bodine scored modified wins at just about every asphalt speedway in New England and New York, plus Race of Champions wins and numerous victories at Martinsville, Virginia and New Symrna Beach, Florida. Aside from his Winston Cup exploits Geoff Bodine was voted to the list of the Fifty Greatest Modified Drivers of All-time as voted by the public.
By: Phil Smith