Geoff Bodine and Mattei Motorsports
28 August 1997The winds of change continue to swirl around Geoff Bodine and his NASCAR Winston Cup team. In just three short weeks they have endured additions, replacements and a stunning mid-race resignation by a crew member.
Just days after the Brickyard 400, there was a split between team manager Lee Morse and Geoff Bodine Racing. Morse had been in charge of day-to-day operation of the team and had previously expressed some frustration with the lack of funds and defection of crew members.
Two weeks later, at Michigan Speedway, Geoff Bodine formally introduced his new ownership partners Jim Mattei and John Porter. Bodine announced that he will retain part ownership and plans to drive for the team, now named Mattei Motorsports, for at least the next three years.
"They are businessmen," said Bodine about his new associates. "Obviously I'm not a very good one," he continued, in reference to the team's admitted financial woes.
Bodine then cited mismanagement of sponsorship money as a big contributor to his problems. "I probably spent money where I shouldn't have," he explained, "and wasted money and got in a position where the budget (set up with sponsor QVC) wasn't enough for me to keep going. I never said they didn't pay me. I just said that the budget we had with them wasn't enough to operate the way I operated."
"We are going to spend money in the right place next year," assured Jim Mattei. "You will see a new team in 1998."
Mattei Motorsports also announced the addition of Tim Brewer as the new team manager. The appointment marks a reunion between Brewer and Bodine who finished 3rd in the 1990 NASCAR Winston Cup point standings as a driver/crew chief combination with Junior Johnson Motorsports.
Optimistic about the future, Bodine and his crew traveled to Bristol Motor Speedway for the Goody's 500 on August 23. Just past halfway through the 500-lap event circumstances got bizarre.
Crew chief Pat Tryson called for an early pit stop which resulted in Bodine losing two laps to the leaders. As chaos among crew members created garbled communications over the two-way radios, Brewer attempted to regain control of the situation.
"There were a lot of people chatting on the radio, and I said, 'Hey, get off the radio and let me talk,'" explained Brewer.
Frustrated by the events that were unfolding, Tryson removed his headset and left the pits. Several minutes later he appeared before television cameras dressed in street clothes. "I don't have any bad feelings for Geoff Bodine," an emotional Tryson said. "But this isn't going to work. I hope that Geoff and I can work together one day down the road."
Immediately following the race, Brewer made reference to the bad pit call when talking about Tryson's reaction. "I don't know what the deal was," he said. "It was a bad call, but nobody was critical of that. I haven't talked to Pat. Hopefully, I'll talk to him tomorrow and get all this resolved."
The following Monday, Tryson put an end to any speculation that there would be a reconciliation. He announced that he had accepted the crew chief position for Team Tabasco, which will join the Winston Cup circuit in 1998. Ironically, the driver he will be working with is Geoff's younger brother Todd Bodine.
And on it goes. The 1997 NASCAR Winston Cup season hurtles toward its conclusion, silly season keeps getting sillier and the only thing that is constant is change.
Lori Vizza -- The Auto Channel