NH--------- When one thinks of the Olympics, one doesn't think usually about
auto racing but this past weekend the two came together to bring awareness to
the United States Bob Sled program.
Don Barker, former modified championship car owner, Bob Cuneo, designer of
modified race cars as well as others forms of Motorsports and John Morgan,
business development manager of the Bo-Dyn Bobsled Project, Inc. were at the New
Hampshire International Speedway to race and bring consciousness to the USA
The NASCAR Whelen modified tour machine was driven by Todd Bodine, whose
brother, Geoff started the ball rolling on the bobsled back several years and
since his involvement with the bobsleds, the Bo-Dyn sleds have become one of the
best in the world. The Sleds are an all Connecticut project as they are designed
and built in Oxford, CT.
Don Barker was one of the people that sat down with designer Bob Cuneo when
Geoff Bodine came calling and asked for help in redesigning the bobsleds and
making the American team a force in a sport that they have lagged behind in for
decades. John Morgan, who lives in Lake Placid, NY and been involved in the
sport since he was little said the addition of everyone has helped make the
Olympics and auto racing a little closer knit. "These sleds are so ridiculously
expensive to design and build. What we are doing here is bring awareness to fans
about them and the USA program." Morgan said while standing on pit road watching
Bodine pit for tires during practice.
Last fall at New Hampshire, Geoff Bodine and Morgan announced that they were
teaming up with several Nextel Cup drivers at Lake Placid to make runs on the
sled and with corporate involvement has helped bring in desperately needed money
for the design and building of these expensive machines. "We had our event last
January with the drivers and when they finished they came out of the bobsleds
with their eyes wide open." Morgan said with delight, "now that we have an
interest, it will be easier to get them back again."
auto racing, sponsorship is needed and because of the NASCAR connection, it has
paid off in big dividends for the bobsleds. Bob Cuneo, who had never seen a
bobsled before, came into the program to help out longtime friend, Geoff Bodine
but he quickly got involved in the program with both feet. "The first five or
six years were all passion." Bob said about his work, "but I told them after the
last Olympics that if we didn't have money, I couldn't afford to do this." A two
man bobsled cost around $35,000 while four man sled runs about $45,000 but Cuneo
said the main cost is the Research and Development. Cuneo, who has been involved
in auto racing for years and modified racing in particular, said the USA
bobsleds get no money from the federal government with all its money coming from
donations and other fund raising events. "The Germans get 2.8 Euros per year to
spend on R and D, that's R and D alone." Bob said shaking his head but thanks to
him and his designs, the Americans are now one of the top sleds in the world.
"Technically, we and the Germans are head of everyone else." That statement
alone should make Cuneo and everyone else with the American program smile
because when the USA ran bobsleds before they were buying machines from other
European countries with very little help.
Whelen Engineering, another Connecticut business and sponsor of the NASCAR
modified tour jumped at a chance in getting in on the ground floor and has
become a major sponsor of the bobsleds as has Chevrolet and other top companies.
While Barker estimates that it will cost him about '$12,000 to $15,000' to bring
his car here this weekend for Todd Bodine to run it but he said this is more
than about money. "I get a very special feeling seeing the Bo-Dyn Bobsled
Project logo on my car and to know that I have been involved in project since
the beginning and to see what we have done."
While Morgan said the NASCAR connections has helped and now that they have the
signature event in the NASCAR drivers bobsled race at Lake Placid, they see more
companies using the bobsled to entertain customers. "We knew that we had a
product to use and now companies like Chevrolet are using the bobsleds in their
showrooms and also at hospitality tents at events like this weekend."
While Cuneo was crew chief for Bodine this weekend in the modified event, his
mind is already on getting ready to test new ideas. "What we'll do is come up
with some ideas and see what works." Bob said. When Bob was asked if a rulebook
applies just like in NASCAR, he smiled and said with a big grin, "oh yeah."
"They are just like the Nextel Cup with what you can and can't do, it's just a
matter of working on the small things that can make all the difference in
speed." And when time matters in hundredths and thousands of seconds, the
slightest idea can pay big dividends.
While money has come in from major companies to everyday fans, even Carl Edwards
and Todd Bodine have gotten into the act. "Both Carl (who ran the modified here
in July) and Todd are donating their winnings to the project but Todd has come
up with a tee shirt that they are selling to help out." Barker said. "Todd was
also to get Lumber Liquidators to get on board the bobsleds too." Lumber
Liquidators are Bodine's truck series sponsor.
So what started off with Geoff Bodine's interest in the bobsled, because "they
were the closest thing to racing in the Olympics" to the actual design and
building of the all American made sleds, the project has come full circle but as
they say, the best is still yet to come.
Photos By Fran Lawlor