Drivers have their fair share of not so great days, even the very best of them. I speak of the face-palm tantrum moments of playing park-and-go with a tow truck on the track after being black flagged or foolishly spinning someone out well after a race is over. Another form comes outside of the car in front of the fans with an interview or an altercation. The better you are on the track the brighter the spotlight that’s cast upon you. Enter one Geoff Bodine. The driver of the Dick Armstrong owned Nu Style Racing red Pinto bodied Modified during the mid to late ’70’s. Geoff’s unbelievable talent behind the wheel got overshadowed on occasion by an uncanny ability to do the wrong thing at the wrong time. Some of his most notable racing feuds with fellow competitors are well documented (Bones Bourcier’s “RICHIE“ and “BUGSY” books) and every once in a while it would happen outside of the car and make the papers.
The NERF had an additional reason for starting his anti-Bodine campaign and it all started when Geoff and his Big Red Machine decided to compete regularly at Riverside Park Speedway in 1977.
Back in the mid to late 70’s Riverside Park Speedway featured Modifieds and Figure Eights. After intermission the Modifieds would roll out of the pit gates, run over the scales in the infield in turns three and four, and park in their respective positions on the front stretch. The drivers would then get out of their Mods and start signing autographs for the mobs of fans at the fence. On this night in ’77, my older brother Shane was in that mob hoping to get an autograph from his new favorite driver, Geoff Bodine.
After waiting his turn, Shane started to pass the driver his new WINSTON Racing hat through the fence. Geoff looked up at my brother with a distasteful expression and blurted out; “Sorry, but I don’t sign autographs for older kids. Go bug someone else.”
Up until that moment my family attended the Park with an equal amount of interest each Saturday evening. After that night the trips were less a family member. The negative response wiped out my brother’s interest of attending the Park for quite some time and his new favorite driver became his last. On a scale of 1 to 10 my father’s anger reading was nothing short of severely pissed off.
Obviously many years have passed since then and as I stated earlier, every driver sees their fair share of not so good days, but at that moment in 1978 and being as it was his son, it was taken personally.
The next week Robert Echo began setting aside space in every article he submitted to the local paper and that space focussed on Geoff Bodine. When he left that local publication and started writing NERF’ers Corner, it only took one nasty incident at Stafford Speedway for that space to creep back into his column. So, to quote Apollo Creed in ROCKY III; “Ding.. Ding..”
Friday, May 26th, 1978 – NEW ENGLAND SPEEDWAY SCENE
Hello once again from Fan Club Headquarters here in NERF’ers Land. I’m sitting here at my rickety old wooden desk, that must have been left over from the days of President Washington, typin’ my column for all you NERF’s. In fact I think ol’ George used this desk to cross the Delaware in. It’s not really a bad old desk as there are only a couple of minor things wrong with it. The top drawer on the right side has never been open cause I ain’t gotta key and when you pullout the drawer on the bottom left, the right front leg falls off. Oh yes, I call my desk “Sexy” because the top has more bumps in it than Raquel Welch or Charo.
Well back to fan club news.
One New England fan club is presently planning their second trip to the “Cardinal 500” in Martinsville, VA in late October. Details have not been completed and the fan club’s president has asked that the club not be named at this time. When full details are set, we will pass them on to you.
I know there must be several fan clubs out there with some news for all the NERF’s in the Northeast. It could be you who might want to add some new members to support your favorite driver or you could need information on how to start a fan club. Drop us a line and we’ll put your news in this column or we’d be glad to help you organize a club for support of your favorite track gladiator.
Do you remember the old “I hate Elvis” clubs when the late Elvis Presley hit the scene in the 1950’s. Well after last Friday nights 30 lap Modified feature at Stafford Motor Speedway, there may be a new ”I hate” club and with all the tee shirts around with ones favorite driver scrolled across the front with a picture of his car, the new shirts would read “I Hate Bodine” with a big “X” across the picture of Bodine’s Pinto.
Bellingham’s (Ma.) Geoff Bodine and Ken Bouchard of Fitchburg (Ma.) are the only ones who really know what happened on the 25th lap restart with the possible exception of Ken’s brother Ron and Rehobeth’s (Ma.) Bugsy Stevens who lined up behind Bodine and Ken Bouchard.
With Bodine in the number one spot and Ken Bouchard on the outside, the two touched wheels sending the latter for a wild ride into the fourth turn wall. He then rolled back down across the track through traffic where he collided with Plainfield (Ct.) Dick Traynor.
A confrontation between Ron Bouchard and Bodine was thwarted by starter Frank Sgambato and several drivers sitting out the action in the infield.
It was twenty minutes before they removed the badly shaken Ken from his modified and he was later taken to the hospital for examination and release.
I don’t know who or what really caused the accident as there are many versions of the accident, but I do know Ron stirred the crowd up to a frenzy by going after Bodine and rightfully so as he was disturbed over his brother being hurt.
A couple of things cost Bodine a lot of his faithful fans. One was when he climbed from his car after the accident and raised his arms in what everyone in attendance thought was a gesture of victory. This brought a loud booing from the stands. Bodine also later remarked to fans in a “Victory Lane” interview with Pete Falconi; “If these people were real racing fans, they would understand.” Again the boos rose loud and strong from the spectators. The statement was a bad mistake. The people that attend Stafford week after week would have to be considered good dedicated racing fans and without them there would be no payday for winners like Bodine.
Just wonderin’ who’ll be the first to dawn an “I Hate Bodine” shirt or who’ll be the first to start a club under the same name.