These days, Bodine finds himself trading paint with Father Time. It’s a race the 60-year- old knows nobody can win, but he wakes up every day determined to keep plugging away.
“I don’t want to get old. I don’t want to act old,” Bodine said. “When I die, I want some quality in my life.”
Bodine looked anything but old as he perched on a guardrail near his No. 99 Pontiac GTO in the infield of Lonesome Pine Raceway on Saturday afternoon.
If you ignore the gray stubble on top of his head, Bodine really doesn’t look much older now than he did when he lapped the field at North Wilkesboro back in 1994.
Bodine credited a strict diet and a lifetime’s worth of exercise for allowing him to keep on doing what he loves to do.
“Since I haven’t been racing full time, I maintain a good diet,” Bodine said. “My diet is better now than it’s ever been. What’s happened now is that we’ve learned how to eat.”
Bodine’s racing career began 55 years ago in a micro-midget division at the track his grandfather owned in Chemung, N.Y. It continues to this day as Bodine mixes it up against competitors who weren’t even born when he won rookie of the year honors in the Cup series back in 1982.
The veteran was in Coeburn to run a pair of 75-lap ISCAR Dash Series feature races, further evidence that he can’t get racing out of his blood.
“When I bleed, it goes fast,” Bodine said with a laugh.
As much as he loves to compete, Bodine also enjoys guiding the young drivers as they look to climb the same ladder to the top that he once scaled.
Bodine said ISCAR, which is the resurrection of the old Goody’s Dash Series, is a great steppingstone for young racers because it gives them a division where they can make the transition from Legend cars to Late Models.
“These cars are fast and they’re a handful to drive, but that’s how you learn,” Bodine said. “I hope it stays so kids like these guys can get out and go. It’s a cheap way to race and get some experience.”
Bodine has also found a home in ISCAR because it is the best of both worlds. He can feed his craving for competition without having to deal with all the off-track distractions that come with a NASCAR ride.
“This is my kind of racing,” Bodine said. “Short tracks, not a lot of money involved, no big sponsors to cater to and worry about.”
Even though his NASCAR career is now in the rearview, Bodine still can’t shake the years of disappointment he experienced at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Bodine ran well in both Nationwide and Cup races at BMS, but never landed in Victory Lane.
“I should have won a couple of races there and I didn’t, so unfortunately, they aren’t good memories,” he said. “In ’94, I had ’em all beat. I was just flying and I think with 18 or 20 laps to go, the engine broke. Just crazy things.”
But with a Whelen Modified Tour stop coming to Bristol this August, Bodine said Saturday that he might be up for one more shot at redemption.
“We’re trying to put something together,” he said. “I have a friend, Donny Barker, and Bob Cuneo, who builds my bobsleds.
“I drove one of their cars at Loudon a couple years ago. First time I’d been in a Modified in 25 years and I qualified second.”
Bodine won 55 Modified races during the 1978 season, landing him in the Guinness Book of World Records. Needless to say, he likes his chances to change his fortune at BMS if a deal comes together.
“It’s disappointing when I think about Bristol that I didn’t win there,” Bodine said. “Now I need to go back with a Modified and just do it.”