John Morgan has lived and breathed bobsledding as a driver, broadcaster and coach. But he says he's never seen anything like this.
''I've been promoting the sport all my life, and during a pre-Olympic year you always get some stuff,'' Morgan said. ''But this is amazing. Our phones have been ringing off the hook.''
Apparently, the prospect of watching Tony Stewart or Jeff Gordon or Jimmie Johnson race a bobsled down the Lake Placid-area track on Mount Van Hoevenberg has piqued the interest of auto racing fans who have heard about Geoffrey Bodine's latest effort to help the U.S. bobsled program.
As part of a fund-raiser, Bodine wants to lure 10 NASCAR drivers to pay $50,000 apiece to drive the track. Each would race a two-man training sled painted in his team's colors and with his sponsor's logos emblazoned on the cowling, and a race-day crew member would serve as brakeman.
''It's to raise awareness and hopefully get more people to watch and support the Olympics,'' Bodine said. ''It's to race so we can keep the project going.''
The event is scheduled for Jan. 5-9. After the competition, Bodine's Bobsled Fantasy Camp will give NASCAR fans a chance to drive the same sleds.
''Every single guy I've talked to said he'd love to do it,'' said Bodine, who since 1992 has helped raise money through the Bo-Dyn Bobsled Project to develop American-made bobsleds for the U.S. team. ''Tony's ready. He wants to do it. Jeff Burton wants to be involved, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson. They all want to do this if the time allows them.
''It's hard to schedule things. They're busy people. We picked the first weekend of the new year because we thought that would be a down time before testing gets real strong at Daytona.''
So far, road race ace Boris Said is the only driver committed, probably because he has a real connection to the sport. His father was an Olympic bobsled driver at the 1972 Games in Sapporo, Japan.
''I used to ride sleds in Lake Placid, and it is the fastest and most exciting racing experience I have ever had without a motor,'' Said recalled.
Bodine, who has driven sporadically since a bad crash in a truck race at Daytona five years ago, hopes to have the logistics worked out by the time NASCAR races at Watkins Glen in two weeks.
''With another track being built for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, Canada, I need to take the project to the next level,'' said Bodine, who counts the 1986 Daytona 500 among his 18 Cup victories.
''Like NASCAR, the sport is about racing, rules and changes in technology, which mandates research and development and costs money. I need some other NASCAR people to assist me with the project. The best way is to get them into a bobsled environment and give them a feel for the sport. They will not be disappointed.''
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