‘Cheech’ Garde has long been a part of the NASCAR racing scene on both the
Sprint Cup series but also on the northeast modified scene building cars and
But now, Garde is embarking on
something bigger than auto racing, it is representing his country. Garde
will be in charge of the building and maintaining the United States
The USA bobsleds will be moving shop to
North Carolina from Connecticut, where since the inception; they were
designed and built under the masterful eyes and engineering knowledge of Bob
Cuneo of Chassis Dynamics, long one of the premier fabricators and builders
of modified race cars.
Garde will also receive help from 1988
NASCAR modified tour champion, Mike McLaughlin, once fabricating is
essential for speed and performance.
Garde, who worked for Cuneo from the
time he was 15 years old, was one of the first people to move down south and
pursue a job in auto racing, initially hooking up with Connecticut based
Race Hill Farms, driven by Harry Gant and later, modified legend, Ronnie
“Bob has always been a good friend of
mine and we always stayed in touch. When he asked about doing this project,
I was all for it.” Garde said from North Carolina, just days after the USA
won the Gold medal in the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Like many race fans, the bobsleds are
the closest thing to racing and that is what got Geoff Bodine, the
mastermind and front man to not only put up his own money to redesign and
build bobsleds that were only built in the United States.
Bodine became intrigued with the
bobsleds and in 1992, after noticing our American athletes were using
European bobsleds and going nowhere fast, he knew he wanted to do something
From there, Bodine set out on a “Made
in America” theme and since then, the Americans have done more than just
hold their own but more needs to be done.
Garde said that the biggest thing for
the bobsleds is the money. And while money in auto racing buys you speed,
money in the bobsleds allows you to test and more importantly develop the
drivers for the future.
“The testing and the driver development
are the biggest obstacles right now. “ Garde said. While the Olympics will
fade from the public’s mind now that they are over, the work is just
beginning for the 2014 Winter games that will be held in Russia.
“Like a race car coming back to the
shop after a race, the sled is torn down and then put back together for the
The modified division has always been a
series that car builders, fabricators and crew members think outside of the
box and Garde said it is the nature of the division.
“Working in the Cup series, that are a
lot of great racing people and minds there but a lot of them come from the
modified and the supermodifieds. It is because these cars allow you to think
While the next Olympics aren’t until 4
more years, there are always regional events and World events to get
prepared for and that is what’s next on the list of to do for the new crew.
“Our main focus now is to get a test
program and get data.” Said Garde, given the nickname of Cheech by Bob
Cuneo many years ago.
Since the American sleds won the World
title and now have a Gold medal to prove that their efforts are producing
winning sleds, all the other countries are lining up to buy them but Bodine,
true to his word will not sell either the sleds or the technology to the
“The Germans have 50 full time people
working on just the bobsleds and have about a $3.5 million dollar budget. “
Russia has always been one of the
countries that ruled the bobsleds but even they can’t get one of the new
sleds. This year the top Russian sled crashed in the Olympics.
“They are throwing lots of money around
trying to get one but we won’t sell.”
“Our goal is to keep is all in the USA.
That is one of the reasons that Whelen Engineering got on board as a sponsor
because all of their products are made in the United States.” Garde said.
The bobsleds, much like a race car are
built from a fixture or a jig but each sled has a uniqueness difference to
each sled, much like a modified. While they all may look the same, there are
small, subtle differences.
As mentioned before, one of the biggest
obstacles to achieving new success is money.
Each January for the last couple of
years, Geoff Bodine has held the Bodine bobsled challenge in Lake Placid,
N.Y., site of two previous Winter Olympics. Bodine gathers many of the
NASCAR touring series champions and Cup drivers as well as many members of
the NHRA to compete in bobsleds which raise money to not only build the
newer sleds but continue with the latest technology..
While that is a fun event for all,
Garde wishes that more racers, who have made a living at racing, get more
involved not only with their name but with their money..
When asked what it meant to take over
the building of the USA bobsleds, Garde was beaming. “This is such a huge
honor. Talk about being proud, to be asked to do something that is
representing your country is such an honor.
While he has a lot of big shoes to fill
now that Bob Cuneo won’t be the lead person in charge of the sleds, he
acknowledged that Cuneo is “an irreplaceable individual.”
Geoff Bodine, Bob Cuneo and Whelen
Engineering have done a masterful job getting the bobsleds to the lofty
position that they hold but Garde isn’t satisfied just yet.
“I won’t be happy until we are getting
medals in the two man and women bobsleds and taking more medals in the four
Besides the men winning the four men
Gold medal the two women sled also captured a medal in the past Olympics.
With aspirations like that, it appears
that the USA bobsled project will remain on the fast track.
(To learn more about the Bobsled
project or to donate, visit Bodine Bobsled Project)