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Day 3: Bodine reminisces on Hendrick ties

May 05, 2014, Mike Hembree, Special for,

Charity ride gives former Cup driver chance to discuss dynasty's early days

(Photo courtesy of Kyle Petty Charity Ride)

TUCSON, Ariz. -- The helmet Geoffrey Bodine wears these days is as an owner of a Honda motorcycle dealership in Melbourne, Florida and as a rider on the Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America -- not as a Sprint Cup driver and winner.

At 65, Bodine has been there and done that -- raced on practically every track of note (and some not of note) in the United States and won at most of them, including the biggest of all, the Daytona 500. He ended his Sprint Cup career with 18 victories.

One of Bodine's biggest claims to fame, however, is the fact that he scored the first Cup victory in the history of what would become one of stock car racing's all-time most successful operations -- Hendrick Motorsports. The team began competition in 1984 as All-Star Racing, although, as team owner Rick Hendrick is quick to admit, it wasn't exactly overloaded with all-stars. There were five employees in an outfit that now has 500 on the payroll.

Day 3 recap
Started: Las Cruces, New Mexico.
Finished: Midland, Texas.
Miles traveled: 356.1.

Hendrick Motorsports is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.

"I would have liked to have been about his eighth driver instead of his first," Bodine said. "The first driver always blows a lot of engines and has some trouble. But we blazed a trail. I'm proud of it. We cheer for those guys. We feel a little responsibility when we see those cars go around."

Bodine scored the team's first win at Martinsville that first season, starting a line of success that would lead to 11 Sprint Cup championships and some of the sport's most indelible moments.

Why did this happen?

"Why? It's Rick Hendrick," Bodine said. "Even back in the day when I joined up, one of his key attributes is that he knows how to deal with people. He actually brought in people to give us tests to see what kind of personalities we had, then he matched people together.

"It's a people world. If you don't have the right people, you're in trouble. If you put the right people together, you can be successful, and that's what he's done."

It's difficult to imagine legendary and irascible mechanic Harry Hyde, Hendrick's first crew chief, submitting to a personality test, a fact Bodine supports. "I bet he said, 'Rick, I ain't taking no test. I don't have a personality. Well, I do, but it's not going to change.' "

Bodine participated in the first two Kyle Petty Rides and has been a sporadic visitor since.

"This thing is for such a great cause," he said. "In life, you try to make something good out of something bad, and that's what Kyle and his family have done with this and the Victory Junction Gang Camp."
Day 3 recap
Started: Las Cruces, New Mexico.
Finished: Midland, Texas.
Miles traveled: 356.1.

Notes: Monday's ride brought more sunshine and high temperatures, although more moderate than Saturday's opening-day scorcher. … Final stop on Monday's route was in Texas oil country in Midland, where a brand-new Homewood Suites, in a move typical of the generosity that parallels the ride, donated all its rooms to the group. ... The ride will spend three days in Texas, with overnight stops in Midland, Austin and Beaumont. … Richard Petty is scheduled to join the festivities Tuesday in Texas.

Tuesday's route: Midland, Texas to San Angelo, Texas; to Mason, Texas; to Austin, Texas.

Donate: The Kyle Petty Charity Ride raises money for the Victory Junction Gang Camp, a summer camp for chronically ill children. To donate,


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