NASCAR great Bodine part of USABS Hall of Fame induction | News, Sports, Jobs

From left, pilot Steve Holcomb, Curt Tomasevicz, Geoff Bodine, Justin Olsen and Steve Mesler pose after winning the 2010 four-man luge Olympic gold in a sled Holcomb nicknamed “The Night Train.” The late driver returned four years later to take Olympic silver in another Bo-Dyn sled, dubbed “The Night Train 2.” (Contributed photo – Charlie Booker)

LAKE PLACID — USA Bobsled and Skeleton will induct five new members into the Hall of Fame on Dec. 17 in Lake Placid. The ceremony, which will be held at Mount Van Hoevenberg at the end of the day’s luge world cup races, will highlight the four athletes as well as NASCAR legend Geoff Bodine.

Bodine, winner of the 1986 Daytona 500, first got into luge after watching the 1992 Winter Olympics, where the United States competed with sleds bought from European teams.

“It didn’t suit me” Bodine said in a statement. “Why couldn’t we develop our own sleds with the technological know-how of this country? If we get equipment from our competitors, you know it can’t be very good or why did they sell it to us?”

Bodine arrived in Lake Placid after the 1992 Albertville Winter Olympics. He met the athletes, experienced the sport firsthand at Mount Van Hoevenberg on the 1980 Olympic circuit, and then began the process of creating American luge just for the US men’s and women’s teams.

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He teamed up with Bob Cuneo of Chassis Dynamics and the late Phil Kurze, president of Whelen Engineering, two Connecticut auto racing companies. One of them became the Bo-Dyn Bobsled Project, an American mission to bring international luge to the red, white and blue.

By the 1994 Winter Olympics, Team USA was able to compete with Bo-Dyn sleds. After not winning an Olympic medal since 1956, USA luge finished within 0.02 seconds of the podium at the 1998 Winter Olympics on Bo-Dyn sleds.

In 2002, at their home Olympics in Salt Lake City, Team USA captured gold in the women’s competition and silver and bronze in the men’s competition, all in Bo-Dyn gear. This was followed by a silver medal in Turin in 2006.

In the midst of success, one of the greatest US luge pilots of all time, Steve Holcomb, developed his skills and won World Cup and World Championship medals for Bo-Dyn sleds.

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On a cold night at the 2010 Vancouver/Whistler Games, a 62-year pursuit of a gold medal ended with Holcomb’s four teams in a sled he christened. “Sleeper” dominate every race on a fast and dangerous track.

Party shots of Bodine with Holcomb, Steve Mesler, Curt Tomasevicz and Justin Olsen became iconic.

Four years later, Holcomb, in the next iteration of the Bo-Dyn sled, known as “Night Train 2” raced to a four-man silver medal in Sochi.

“We all had a great sense of achievement” Bodine said. “We did it our way, the American way. I have a lot of faith in this country and our system. We saw what can be done when everyone pulls in the same direction. In a sense, what we accomplished on the ice over those years epitomized the best of the United States, something I’m most proud of to this day until.

Bodine will travel to Lake Placid from his home in Florida for orientation. He is joined by the following:

— Tristan Gale Geisler, 2002 Olympic champion in skeleton. He was the first Olympic gold medalist in history when the sport debuted in Salt Lake City.

— Vonetta Flowers, who became the first African-American and the first black athlete from any country to win a gold medal at the Winter Olympics. His achievement happened in 2002.

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— Randy Jones, who entered luge after a football and track career at Duke University. He won Olympic silver in the four-man event in Salt Lake City in 2002.

— Jimmy “Heart medicine” Morgan, pilot of the four bobsleigh Morgan brothers from Saranac Lake. Jimmy was tragically killed in a finish line crash at the 1981 World Championships in Cortina, Italy.

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