- Associated Press - Saturday, August 10, 2013

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (AP) - Geoff Bodine used to have to sneak into Watkins Glen to watch races because he didn’t have enough money. Now, he’s a permanent resident after being inducted into The Legends of The Glen.

“It’s an honor. I really appreciate this. I didn’t see it coming,” Bodine said. “I looked at some of the names, names I watched race here. I didn’t know what I was looking at when I came up here as a kid and was watching Mark Donahue. I didn’t know I was ever going to be a part of it.

“I don’t believe anyone’s raced more types of vehicles here than me. How about a ride for this Sunday?” Bodine pleaded with a devilish smile.

In 2012, the Green Grandstand at Watkins Glen International was renamed the Bodine Grandstand in recognition of contributions to the track by Geoff and younger brothers Todd and Brett. Since 2008, track officials have selected drivers from all racing backgrounds to The Legends of The Glen.

Geoff Bodine was an innovator _ he brought the full-face helmet and power steering to the Cup series _ and won the 1986 Daytona 500. His crowning achievement, though, may have come in 1996 when he shocked the Cup field at Watkins Glen with a new road-course strategy and won the race.

It was the last of his 18 Cup victories but remains very special.

“That day we outsmarted everyone,” Bodine said. “We set up the only-stop-when-you-have-to (strategy) on road courses. We showed everybody how you can win that way.”

Still, it wasn’t so easy because crew chief Paul Andrews wasn’t convinced it would work.

“When the first yellow came out, (Dale) Earnhardt’s leading and Paul goes, `Pit.’ I said, `No. Paul, it’s too early.’ He said, `Yeah, but everyone’s going to pit. You’ve got to pit.’ He panicked.

“I said, `No, it’s not our plan. Well Paul, guess what, I’m driving the car and I’m not coming in to the pits,’ and I waved when I went by. And he goes, `Oh, no!’ He cracked under the pressure.”

Bodine beat Terry Labonte by .440 seconds, followed by Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon, Bobby Labonte and Earnhardt, who had started from the pole.

“I didn’t know that was going to be my last win. I’m kind of glad it was because this is home,” Bodine said. “I had just gone through a divorce. Things hadn’t been going well. Everybody thought I was cuckoo.”

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