The NASCAR short-track community is connected to the gold medal winning four-man United States Olympic bobsled team.
The team of driver Steve Holcomb, Steve Mesler, Justin Olsen and Curtis Tomasevicz won the four-man bobsled Olympic gold medal during the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia Sunday, Feb. 28. It was the first USA four-man bobsled Olympic gold medal in 62 years. In addition, Erin Pac and Elana Meyers had a bronze medal performance in the women’s two-man bobsled competition.
Geoff Bodine, the 1986 Daytona 500 winner, began his quest to develop an American made and built bobsled for the USA Olympic bobsled team in 1992. Joined by Bob Cuneo, owner of Chassis Dynamics, the effort became known as the Bo-Dyn Bobsled Project.
Ten years ago, Whelen Engineering, based in Chester, Conn., began supporting the team through sponsorship. Whelen Vice President Phil Kurze has been president of the Bo-Dyn Bobsled Project for nine years. Whelen is also the title sponsor of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour.
“It was amazing to see a grassroots American team compete and win the gold medal on the world stage,” Kurze said. Kurze was at the bottom of the 16-turn track just feet from the finish line. He said Bodine was up top at the push-off area. “Team USA’s bobsleds were designed, built and raced by Americans, which was the goal of everyone involved.”
The earliest versions of the Bo-Dyn bobsleds competed in the 1994 Winter Olympics, and with each four-year Olympic cycle, the sleds became increasingly competitive. The gold-winning sled is named “Night Train.” Holcomb and team also drove it to the world championship in 2009.
“It’s been a long road,” Darrin Steele, CEO of the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation, told a reporter. “We’ve been building this for quite some time. The athletes were amazing … it’s a great day for the USA. With the Bo-Dyn Project, our sleds are as good or better than the competition.”
Bodine has hosted the Lucas Oil Geoff Bodine Bobsled Challenge for NASCAR champion drivers at the Olympic Sports Complex in Lake Placid, N.Y., each January since 2006. 2010 NASCAR participants included three-time NASCAR Whelen All American Series national champion Philip Morris, 2009 NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour champion George Brunnhoelzl, 2007 NASCAR K&N Pro Series champion Joey Logano and 2006 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Todd Bodine. NHRA drag racing drivers made up the balance of the 2010 field. Logano was the overall winner of the 10-sled event. The two-day event was telecast on SPEED.
Kurze has had the opportunity to ride in a Bo-Dyn bobsled and said the experience is unique.
“It’s exhilarating,” Kurze said. “You feel 5Gs as if you’re in a military jet. Its fast and very exciting. You still feel it after you get out of the sled. The ride is like being on a roller-coaster without rails.”