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Trying to classify which NASCAR wreck was the worst ever is a fool’s errand since any fatal crash automatically tops the list. But Geoffrey Bodine’s wreck at Daytona International Speedway in 2000 merits consideration based on the fact he survived it.

What happened a little more than midway through the first Craftsman Truck Series race on a superspeedway was a harsh reminder that “The Big One” doesn’t just happen in the NASCAR Cup Series.

Geoffrey Bodine was an accomplished racer

A view of the aftermath of Geoffrey Bodine's accident during the Craftsman Truck Series in the Daytona 250. | Robert Laberge/Getty Images
A view of the aftermath of Geoffrey Bodine’s accident during the Craftsman Truck Series in the Daytona 250. | Robert Laberge/Getty Images

Geoff Bodine finished in the top 10 in the Cup Series standings six times from 1984-90 and holds the distinction of scoring the three victories in 1984 that allowed the fledgling Hendrick Motorsports organization to grow into the most successful in the history of NASCAR’s top series.

However, there was much more to his racing career than that. Bodine also drove for Junior Johnson and Bud Moore before making a go of it with his own team from 1993-97. By the time he retired in 2011, Bodine owned 18 victories and 190 top-10 finishes in the Cup Series to go along with six wins in Xfinity Series cars.

By then, Bodine had found a new passion: engineering and building bobsleds. Surprised to learn all the U.S. team’s equipment in the 1992 Winter Olympics was manufactured in Europe, he took to the bobsled run at Lake Placid to understand the nuances of the sport and went to work with chassis builder Bob Cuneo.

The U.S. National Team began using his equipment in 1994 and medaled three times in the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City.

Geoffrey Bodine’s crash at Daytona was nothing short of astonishing

NASCAR launched the Craftsman Truck Series in 1995, but the circuit didn’t make its first appearance on one a superspeedway until Daytona in 2000. Despite testing, it was still unknown territory when the trucks took to the 2.5-mile track on Feb. 18, 2000.

An incident on Lap 15 took out three of the 36 starters, then another wreck on Lap 38 ended the day for two more. Neither came close to the near-tragedy on the tri-oval on Lap 57.

It began with Kurt Busch and Rob Morgan making contact, sending the latter’s truck into Geoffrey Bodine. The hit squeezed Bodine into the wall and launched the No. 15 Ford into the catch fence at full velocity. The protective barrier mostly stood up to the hit, but it peeled the truck apart piece by piece, even dislodging the engine.

There was an immediate fireball, and the truck landed upside-down, skidding down the track. Making it worse, another truck that couldn’t get out of the way in time rammed what was left of Bodine’s vehicle. The saving grace was that the roll bars did exactly what they were designed to do, keeping him from being crushed.

Bodine said he blacked out almost immediately once the incident involving 11 trucks started. He suffered some burns, and the most significant injuries were a broken bone in one wrist and a cracked vertebra.

‘It’s amazing I’m still here’

Former Daytona 500 Champion Geoff Bodine watches practice for the Busch Clash on Feb. 8, 2020, at Daytona International Speedway. | Jeff Robinson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Former Daytona 500 Champion Geoff Bodine watches practice for the Busch Clash on Feb. 8, 2020, at Daytona International Speedway. | Jeff Robinson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Geoffrey Bodine was stretchered to a nearby hospital and began his recovery in intensive care, but he was able to return to North Carolina to convalesce within a matter of days.

Twenty years later, he told WFTV-TV that 2000 Daytona wreck, in which his truck flipped nine times, had the sensation of riding a roller coaster.

“I heard noise, never opened my eyes, never spoke, but I heard noise,” he said. “I remember thinking, ‘Where am I? Daytona. OK, truck race.’ And I passed out.”

Bodine’s brothers, Todd and Brett, both NASCAR drivers, were watching from the infield. Their view of the portion of the track where the wreck happened was obstructed, but they saw the aftermath on a TV monitor. Not knowing yet it was their brother’s truck that was most heavily damaged, they agreed the driver was likely dead.

“It’s amazing I’m still here,” said Geoffrey Bodine, who won the 1986 Daytona 500 in the Cup Series. “It’s not amazing; God blessed me, saved me, so I’m very fortunate to be here.”

Got a question or observation about racing? Sportscasting’s John Moriello does a mailbag column each Friday. Write to him at [email protected].

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