Brett Bodine

April 29 in NASCAR: Rusty Wallace honors Dale Sr. after win on 50th birthday

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On April 29, 2001, the Cup Series held its annual race at the 2-mile track formally known as California Speedway.

Just over two months had passed since the death of Dale Earnhardt in a crash on the final lap of the Daytona 500 and feelings surrounding the tragedy were still fresh on what would have been his 50th birthday.

Rusty Wallace, one of his long-time rivals and friends, made sure Earnhardt got his due after holding off Jeff Gordon to get the win.

There were no celebratory burnouts by Wallace. Instead, a crew member met him on the track and delivered an Earnhardt flag. Wallace drove around the track as it waved outside his window.

It was sadly a familiar sight.

Just over eight years earlier in 1993, Wallace had won the Cup Series race at Bristol following the death of Alan Kulwicki in a plane crash earlier in the week. Afterward, Wallace performed Kulwicki’s trademark “Polish Victory Lap.”

In November, Wallace and Earnhardt would honor not just Kulwicki, but Davey Allison, who died in July from injuries sustained in a helicopter crash. After Wallace won the season finale at Atlanta and Earnhardt clinched his sixth title, the two performed the “Polish Victory Lap” as Wallace held an Allison flag and Earnhardt held a Kulwicki flag.

“It was kind of an emotional feeling,” Wallace told Fox after his 2001 win. “(Earnhardt) was such a great friend of mine and such a great family. … I really would have liked to have had Richard Childress riding with me that lap.”

Also on this date:

1951: Fonty Flock led every lap to win a Grand National race at North Wilkesboro. Lou Figaro, driving in relief of Dale Williams, finished ninth in a car that had its hood stuck in the upright position, according to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: The Beginning.”

1962: Bobby Johns led 430 of 500 laps to win at Bristol by six laps over Fireball Roberts. According to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: The Superspeedway Boom,” Roberts finished second after he lost 12 laps in the pits making repairs, only to make up six of them under green flag conditions.

1984: Geoffrey Bodine beat Ron Bouchard by six seconds at Martinsville to score his first Cup Series win and also the first win for Hendrick Motorsports. It came in the team’s eighth Cup race.

1990: A week after his brother Brett earned his first career Cup win at North Wilkesboro, Geoffrey Bodine won at Martinsville to earn his first win for owner Junior Johnson. It was the first time brothers won consecutive races since Donnie and Bobby Allison did it in 1978.

April 26 in NASCAR: Morgan Shepherd’s upset win at Martinsville

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While Morgan Shepherd‘s first Cup win came relatively early, in his 15th career start, his win at Martinsville Speedway on April 26, 1981 came 11 years after his first start.

Shepherd, a rookie at the age of 39, surprised the field when he led 203 of 500 laps to claim the victory on the short track.

Driving the No. 5 Pontiac for owner Cliff Stewart, Shepherd beat Neil Bonnett, who was the only other driver on the lead lap, by 16 seconds.

It was the first Cup Series win by Pontiac since a victory by Joe Weatherly in October 1963.

“It didn’t sink in until I came around for the checkered flag,” Shepherd said according to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: The Modern Era.” “I almost cried.”

Shepherd would go on to make 517 starts in the Cup Series through 2014. He’d win only three more times, with each one occurring at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Also on this date:

1964: Fred Lorenzen led all but 13 laps to win at Martinsville over Marvin Panch for his fourth straight win. He’d win in his next start two races later at Darlington. Lorenzen won eight times in 16 starts that year.

1987: With a victory at Martinsville, Dale Earnhardt completed a run of four wins in a row. He took the lead with 17 laps to go when leader Geoffrey Bodine spun from contact with Kyle Petty.

1992: Mark Martin won at Martinsville. He led the final 27 laps after Brett Bodine’s suspension broke. It was the 12th straight Cup win for Ford.

2009: Brad Keselowski won his first career Cup Series race, scoring the victory at Talladega after contact with race leader Carl Edwards sent Edwards into the fence coming to the checkered flag.

2014: Joey Logano passed Jeff Gordon, Brad Keselowski and Matt Kenseth in half a lap and led the final four laps to win at Richmond.

April 22 in NASCAR: Brett Bodine claims lone Cup win amid controversy

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Brett Bodine, one of the three Bodine brothers who competed in the NASCAR Cup Series, made 480 career starts in Cup between 1986-03.

In that time, the New York native visited Victory Lane once.

And it wasn’t boring.

It came on April 22, 1990 at North Wilkesboro Speedway as Bodine, making his 80th career start, drove the No. 26 Quaker State Buick owned by NHRA legend Kenny Bernstein.

Bodine led 146 of 400 laps and won over Darrell Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt, but not without some controversy.

The confusion began after a round of green flag pit stops that occurred from Lap 280-318. Bodine, who stopped on Lap 301, became the leader on Lap 318 when Waltrip was the last driver among the leaders to pit.

Then Kenny Wallace brought out the caution on Lap 321 when he spun in Turn 1.

But when the pace car pulled onto the track to pick up the field, he pulled in front of Earnhardt, not Bodine, who was running just ahead of Earnhardt.

NASCAR kept the race under caution for 18 laps as they attempted to sort out the scoring. They eventually told Earnhardt, Waltrip and other drivers who stayed out under the caution to get behind Bodine, who had pitted during the caution with other drivers.

Bodine would lead the final 62 green flag laps and take the checkered flag. Waltrip would protest, but NASCAR ruled Bodine the winner. The next day’s Charlotte Observer cited sources that said NASCAR officials admitted they made a “judgement call … one that can’t be changed.”

“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” Bodine said according to the Observer. “I didn’t think it would take this long and I got impatient. … Now I can say I know I can beat them ’cause I did it once before.”

Years later, Waltrip recalled petitioning Bill France Jr. to rule in his favor.

“I walk over to Bill and I’m almost on my knees,” Waltrip said. “‘Bill, he did not win this race and everybody in this garage area knows that.’ And Mr. France in his divine wisdom, took his cigarette out of his mouth, put his arm around me and he said, ‘DW, leave that boy alone. That’s the first race he’s ever won and you’re going to win a lot more races.”

Waltrip would fail to win in 1990, his first full-time season without a victory.

Also on this date:

1951: Marshall Teague won a race at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in Phoenix. In time trials for the race, driver Allen Heath flipped his car and suffered three broken ribs, a punctured lung and head injuries, resulting in him being taken to the hospital. According to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: The Beginning,” relief driver Chuck Meekins flipped on the second lap in almost the same spot as Heath and ended up in the same hospital room with Heath.

1962: Richard Petty won at Martinsville after leading 145 of 500 laps. The race marked the first start by Lee Petty since he suffered serious injuries in a crash in his Daytona 500 qualifying race in February 1961. He started and finished fifth. He would only make five more starts.

1979:  Richard Petty won at Martinsville, beating Buddy Baker for his first short-track win since 1975 at Bristol

2001: Bobby Hamilton won at Talladega for his fourth and final Cup Series victory. It was also the first Cup win for Andy Petree as an owner. Both his wins came in 2001.

How Jordan Anderson discovered his race hauler is a ‘time capsule’

Jordan Anderson
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If not for the COVID-19 pandemic that’s brought NASCAR and much of the country to a stop, it might have taken Jordan Anderson a while to discover his race team’s hauler was a “time capsule.”

When you’re not expecting to race until at least May, there’s not too much you can do around your race shop.

What you can do is clean your hauler, which would be a “bottom of the totem pole” chore for his Truck Series team in more normal times.

That’s what Anderson was doing today when he learned that the hauler his team has used since 2019 once pulled into the Cup Series garage … 18 years ago.

“Underneath the seat cushions it had ‘Hooters Racing / No. 11’ on it. …. handwritten in sharpie,” Anderson told NBC Sports.

The No. 11 and Hooters were a combo associated with Cup Series driver Brett Bodine from 2002-03 when Bodine owned his own team.

As for the inscribed cushion?

“Somebody pointed this out on Twitter that’s a common thing that Featherlite did when they manufactured these haulers,” Anderson said. “All the seats were made in a common area and the way they marked what hauler they were going in was somebody would just take a sharpie on the bottom board of the cushions and write what hauler it was going in.”

There were more relics from the early 2000s found underneath the hauler’s drawers.

“We found a couple of … setup sheets and stuff like that that had Brett Bodine, the 11 logo on it,” Anderson said. “Then we found one note that I think had practice times from like Phoenix in 2002 in there.”

Anderson, who finished second in the season-opening race at Daytona for his first career top five, purchased the hauler from Premium Motorsports at the end of the 2018 season. Before Premium, it was owned by Stewart Friesen when he began competing in the Truck Series in 2017. Before that, it hauled Tommy Baldwin Racing’s No. 7 Cup car driven by Alex Bowman in 2015.

Using equipment that’s survived through multiple racing generations is not a new experience for Anderson’s self-owned team.

“Honestly, it’s been my entire career,” said Jordan, who currently owns chassis once used by GMS Racing. “With us being a smaller team, we don’t actually manufacturer the chassis. We may do body work, things like that. Most chassis and parts that we buy come from smaller teams and there’s a lot of people that are here in Mooresville that sell used parts.”

Jordan said he has brake calipers that are engraved with “KHI,” the initials for Kevin Harvick Inc., the Truck and Xfinity Series team Harvick operated that closed in 2011.

“It’s pretty crazy to go back and find some of the parts and pieces that we got that have been recycled from bigger teams,” Anderson said. “The fact that stuff gets recycled and reused is how teams like myself stay alive. Because for us to go out and buy all brand new stuff, you’d run out of money pretty quickly.”

As for his hauler, Anderson views its journey through the auto racing community as having come “full circle.”

“That hauler started its life with Brett Bodine, but he owned his team back then and now (it’s) with me owning our team in the Truck Series,” Anderson said. “Most stuff in racing has got a pretty long story. You don’t often get too fortunate to find stuff like what we found today to be able to trace it all the way back.”

Dr. Robert Hubbard, co-inventor of HANS Device, passes away

Michigan State University
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Dr. Robert Hubbard, the co-inventor of the Head and Neck Support Device (HANS), died Tuesday.

A former professor in biomechanical engineering at Michigan State University, Hubbard created the HANS Device in the mid-80s with Jim Downing, his brother-in-law and a champion IMSA driver.

“Bob’s invention truly changed the world of auto racing safety and he was a kindhearted person who would help anyone in need,” HANS stated on its website. “He will be missed greatly.”

Hubbard and Downing set out to create the HANS device after the death of a racing friend as a result of a skull fracture. The duo began to develop, produce, sell and market the device in 1991, with Downing becoming the first driver to use the device when he wore an untested prototype in IMSA races.

Brett Bodine and Kyle Petty became the first Cup drivers to use the HANS device in July 2000, weeks after the death of Kenny Irwin Jr. from a basilar skull fracture in a wreck during Cup practice at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Petty’s son Adam was killed by a basal skull fracture in a crash during a Xfinity Series practice session at New Hampshire in May of that year.

Bodine first wore it for the July 23 event at Pocono Raceway.

During Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway in 2001, only five drivers reportedly planned to use it during the Daytona 500 qualifying races.

Only two more drivers, Ricky Craven and Jeff Burton, reportedly planned to wear the device for the Daytona 500, where Dale Earnhardt would die from head injuries in a crash on the last lap.

NASCAR mandated the use of the HANS Device and another safety device, the Hutchens, in October 2001.

According to Michigan State University in 2014, more than 200,000 HANS devices had been used by drivers since 1990.

No NASCAR drivers have been killed in on-track action since 2001.

In April 2017, Hubbard, Downing and Hubert Gramling were presented with the inaugural John Melvin Motorsport Safety Award by the Society of Automotive Engineers for their work on the HANS device.

“(Hubbard’s) development of that device was hugely important to motorsports,” said Burton, now a NASCAR on NBC analyst. “Clearly, it greatly helped the advancement of safety. The combination of the HANS and the head surround system, that combination of safety implementation revolutionized safety in motorsports, especially in stock cars. Neither works as effectively as it can without the other. Together they are an unbelievable advancement in safety.”

Other NASCAR drivers observed Hubbard’s passing on social media.