Originally created 06/19/03

All in the family

BROOKLYN, Mich. - Brett Bodine's words were slurred by the effects of morphine and the loss of eight crowns. His left eye was blackened and a huge red bump on his forehead made it easy to ignore the sling that holstered his right arm.

Battered and beaten - again - the proud racing family stood shoulder-to-shoulder after the middle of three racing brothers took his turn with catastrophe last week with the loss of his sponsor and a crash at the Michigan International Speedway.

Brett talked little of his injuries a day after his Ford cut a right-front tire and slammed into the second turn wall. Seconds later, and still at full speed, it veered across the raceway and hit an infield wall head-on.

Even before the car came to a stop, younger brother Todd Bodine was already racing to the scene. An hour later, older brother Geoffrey was on his way to the track to serve as a replacement driver in the race.

Much like they did when Geoffrey had his horrific truck-racing crash at Daytona International Speedway three years ago or when Todd's racing future was threatened by the bankruptcy of his sponsor Kmart, the family huddled at the track to face their problems as a group.

"It takes a lot more than a crash to keep a Bodine down," Todd said.

Brett had surgery Tuesday on his broken right collarbone. His attention, however, already is focused on finding a replacement for Hooters, which withdrew its funding of the race team a couple days before his crash.

"I'm here, I'm banged up, but all that will heal itself," Brett said. "My concerns are getting a sponsor and keeping this race team going. Something good will happen from this."

Geoffrey and Todd have been through the sponsorship search, too. Geoffrey, like Brett, owned his race team until sponsorship dried up, forcing him to sell. Three years later, he was involved in a violent crash in his pickup truck on the main straightaway at Daytona, leaving him with an assortment of broken bones.

"I've been there; I know what Brett is going through," Geoffrey said. "I've been pushed out on the ledge because I didn't think I could take any more, because it couldn't get any worse. Now it's my job to convince Brett things are going to be all right."

Todd drives for Travis Carter and Sam Belnavis. A year ago, however, that ride was threatened when Kmart filed for bankruptcy and stopped sending checks. Carter kept the team alive by paying for races out of his own pocket and by picking up sponsorship for selected races. Now the team is fully funded by the U.S. Army National Guard.

Geoffrey drove for his little brother at Michigan. He even wore his brother's racing suit. The car developed a problem with the rear-end gear and lasted only 119 of 200 laps.

It could have been worse, especially considering Brett was knocked out by the first impact and rescue workers found the steering wheel bent upward.

"I'm here," Brett said. "Right now, that's all that matters."

Geoffrey and Todd said they would make sure Brett stays here - in life and racing.

"As long as you have the three Fs - faith, family and friends - you can survive anything," Geoffrey said. "That's what got me through all my trials and tribulations. Brett has the three Fs, and he will make it."

Compounding Brett's problems is a pending divorce that, so far, hasn't been amiable. Geoffrey went through the same thing nearly 10 years ago, and it drove him to the verge of self-destruction, he said.

"This proves we're not immune to these problems," Geoffrey said. "Just because we're race-car drivers doesn't mean we don't have the same kind of problems as everyone else. Brett is going to be OK. My duty as his brother is to keep reminding him he's going to be OK.

"Right now his life, his career is hurting. But I'm an example he can make it through this."

Geoffrey knows the healing process is difficult. The scars of his crash will soon heal, but the emotional scars of his personal and professional life will last for a long time.

"I was right there, ready to jump," Geoffrey said. "Something told me life would be wonderful again and I climbed down. I know how Brett feels. His life has mirrored mine. He's strong; this whole family's strong. We will get through it together."

After Sunday's race, big brother led Brett away from the raceway. He took him home to help him start the painful healing process.

"He probably won't get much sleep," Geoffrey said. "When he was little I used to stay up with him and change his diapers and all that stuff. I might have to do it again."


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