Oh brother, will we ever get these Bodines out of Victory Lane now?
One week after Brett Bodine won the controversial First Union 400, brother Geoff won the Hanes 500 at Martinsville Speedway Sunday.The significance of that was not lost on Geoff, who spent much of the post-race ceremony recalling his days growing up in Chemung, N.Y., racing at his father's track and dreaming when he could come south to win on the Winston Cup tour.
``Yeah, I'm a Yankee,' he said. ``I'm proud of Brett, and I'm proud of my heritage. If it weren't for that little race track in Chemung, N.Y., I wouldn't be here today. I'm proud of that.'
It was Bodine's second win at Martinsville. His first-ever Winston Cup win came here in 1984.
Sunday's win capped an emotional week for the Junior Johnson-owned team. On Friday, a close friend of the Johnsons was killed in a car accident, casting a pall over the events at Martinsville over the weekend. Brent Kouthen, 25, who lived with the Johnson family in the summers and worked in the team's engine and computer operations, died in a one-car accident Friday after leaving the team's Wilkes County shop.
``The last 30 or 40 laps I was thinking about him,' Bodine said. ``I wish he could have been here.'
Johnson, who considered not coming to Sunday's race, said that the team dedicated the race to Kouthen.
``It hurt us both (Johnson and his wife Flossie) so much that I didn't much want to come,' Johnson said. ``But I couldn't do nothing for him, so I thought that I would just go on to the race track and maybe we could win for him. And that's what happened.'
The win was the first ever for the Bodine-Johnson team, formed after the 1989 season. The victory erased any doubt that union would work.
``We're all here to do a job,' Johnson said. ``Where you're from or what you do for a living has nothing to do with it.'
``This proves that all those people that said it wouldn't work were wrong,' Bodine said. ``Me and Junior are definitely getting along.'
Unlike the previous seven races, in which Bodine led all but one but failed to win, this one was only a matter of time. And timing. Bodine easily had the fastest car, but it took timely pit stops and quick decisions in the pits to keep him out front. He wore down Rusty Wallace and Dale Earnhardt over the final 137 laps - all under green - and watched in his rearview mirror as Darrell Waltrip and Morgan Shepherd faded. Wallace finished second, four seconds behind Bodine, and Shepherd, Waltrip and Earnhardt rounded out the top five. Earnhardt, whose point lead over second-place Shepherd fell to 52 points, finished a lap off the lead. Bodine is now third in the point standings, 144 behind Earnhardt heading into Talladega next week.
The win was worth $95,950, the biggest payoff in short-track history. It was boosted by the $38,000 Unocal Challenge bonus that Bodine collected for winning from the pole.
The money, Bodine said, was hardly on his mind over the last few miles. The win, he said, was just the same as the win his son Barry collected Saturday night in a World Karting Association race in Liberty. That made Bodine's win Sunday the third in a week for the family.
``This was a big week for the Bodine family,' he said. ``Last week it was Brett getting his first Winston Cup win. (Saturday) night, Barry won the pole then ended up winning his race. He told me ``It's your turn now, Dad'.'
After winning the pole on Friday, it was Bodine's weekend. He calmly predicted the win on Friday.
``It wasn't bragging,' Bodine said. ``I was just confident. It was a good feeling.'
Bodine avoided a tire left in his path by the Wallace crew on pit road during the last caution period of the day and beat everybody back onto the track. No one would pass him again. Earnhardt, who had elected to stay out, had worked his back to the tail end of the lead lap, and for almost 80 laps, Bodine chased him. On lap 441, Bodine put Earnhardt a lap down again and effectively ended the race.
From there, Wallace made up no ground on the leader.
``The crew made it easy for me by getting me out there,' Bodine said. ``We didn't have to use up the brakes or the tires after that. But it wasn't as easy as it looked. Anytime you're racing Rusty Wallace or battling Dale Earnhardt, it's not easy.'
An earlier battle with Earnhardt was the closest call all day for Bodine. With more than half the race remaining, Bodine and Earnhardt came together in the fourth turn, and both cars bobbled entering the front stretch. When they regained control, they touched again in turn one, but again both drivers kept control and continued to race.
Wallace was the leader at the time, and for the first time all season, it looked like the defending Winston Cup champion might have the best car in the field. Wallace led 200 laps of the 500-lap race, and at one time took a 10-second lead over Bodine with a two-tire pit stop. All the other leaders took four tires during the early race exchange, and Wallace's gamble paid off. The radial tires, being used here for the first time, worked to perfection, whether the crews went for two- or four-tire stops.
But Wallace used up his tires chasing Bodine in the final stretch of green-flag laps.
``The thing that hurt me was I worked too hard to catch Geoff at the end,' Wallace said. ``That really used up my tires. About 60 laps from the end I got loose and I lost more positions trying to catch Geoff than I gained. My aggressive driving is what beat me.'
Wallace drove hard all day, racing anyone who came near him and pushing his car to the limit from the start. When Wallace took the lead on lap 114, it was the first time since Rockingham (six races ago) and the second time all season that he'd been in the lead.
``We ran a good race today, and I'm relieved to say that I feel that we're headed in the right direction,' Wallace said. ``Finishing second at a track like Martinsville is a real ice-breaker for me as well as the team. Our run today proved we're capable of racing like we did last year.'
Earnhardt, who also resorted to a gamble to get back in the race, said that his decision to stay on the track during the last caution was a last-gasp measure.
``I was just running on borrowed time, really,' Earnhardt said. ``We just got loose in the second turn, and we couldn't fix it all day. Fifth place ain't great considering you started second. That's the way it goes. Richard Childress decided to stay out on that last caution to get back on the lead lap. We might have been all right if we could have caught another caution, but we couldn't buy one when we needed it.'
Waltrip, too, was going through the motions, though he ran strong at times.
``We didn't have good brakes today,' Waltrip said. ``We had a fuel pressure problem, and I don't know what that was. We worked on the car for three days and haven't ever been able to fix everything that was ailing it.'
Dick Trickle and Alan Kulwicki also ran well before problems took them out of the running. Kulwicki dropped out with 80 laps left when an oil pump belt broke. Trickle lost his brakes late in the race while running among the leaders and finished ninth.
There were 10 cautions, which slowed the average race speed to 77.423 mph. Bodine's win was only the second for Ford at Martinsville since 1969.