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Steve Park Bobsled Qualifying

Going last normally is a curse in bobsledding. Then again, Todd Bodine isn't your normal bobsled driver.

The NASCAR Craftsman Truck series star turned his unlucky draw into a celebration Friday. Driving the final sled in qualifying for the Chevrolet Geoff Bodine Bobsled Challenge, he and brakeman Larry Fowler beat nine other NASCAR drivers with a two-run time of 1 minute, 47.24 seconds at Mount Van Hoevenberg.

"I'm a little surprised. I was struggling earlier," said Todd Bodine, who beat Tim Fedewa by a scant 0.07 seconds. "It's hard not to make a mistake. I was hoping to at least back up my time from the first run, but we'll take it. We're here for fun, but if we're not the fastest we're mad."

Kevin Lepage was third, followed by Boris Said, Dick Trickle, Brad Noffsinger, Stanton Barrett, Steve Park, Geoff Bodine and Joel Kauffman.

The unique event is an effort by Geoff Bodine to raise funds to keep the U.S. men's and women's bobsled teams at the forefront of international racing. Bodine has been a staunch supporter of the U.S. team since 1992, providing financial support and NASCAR technology to build American-made bobsleds.

One day after getting a crash course in how to drive the specially prepared two-man sleds, which like NASCAR's IROC series are designed to be equal, the drivers demonstrated a remarkable ability to learn a decidedly different form of racing.

Fedewa, who competes in NASCAR's Busch Series, posted the fastest qualifying run, and the top six sleds finished within a half-second of each other. And the results were all driving. To avoid giving anybody an advantage at the start, no pushing is being allowed. The drivers and brakemen simply hop in and let gravity take them away.

"It's been tough trying to make this fair and keep everyone happy," Geoff Bodine said.

As usual, there was plenty of joking around during practice. Once qualifying began, though, the drivers were all business, focusing on their sleds and seeking advice from U.S. bobsled team members that might give them the winning edge for Saturday's two races.

"We're still racers," Barrett said. "It's fun, but you want to win."

And nobody wants it more than the 64-year-old Trickle, who retired a couple of years ago but still would relish a top Nextel Cup ride. The Wisconsin short-track star appeared to be the man to beat early on.

"I was second-quickest my first time out," said Trickle, who lost son Chad as his brakeman because their sled was 62 pounds over the 400-pound weight limit. "The first two practice runs my goggles fogged up. I couldn't see where I was going. The biggest thing is we want to be competitive. It would be a bonus to win."

Light snow was falling and the temperature in the Adirondack Mountains was beginning to plummet through the teens as Todd Bodine put down the winning time, hitting speeds of nearly 60 mph.

Said hopped onto the edge of the track near the final turn as Bodine approached, seemingly ready to throw his helmet at the dark blue sled as it rattled past. Instead, Said jumped down with a big smile on his face and walked over to congratulate the winner.

"I shouldn't have given him any advice," Said joked.

Said, one of the best road racers in the world, figured to be the man to beat over the 17-turn layout. His late father, Bob, drove in the 1968 and 1972 Winter Olympics for the U.S. bobsled team and Boris repeatedly consulted Friday at the start house with 61-year-old Phil Duprey, who just happened to be the brakeman for Said's father.

"In our little group, the good guys are really good," Boris said. "We want to win. I'm going to bring my best. My name's all over the sled."
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