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Fri, 29 Dec 2006, 02:50 AM

NHRA'S Version of Cool Runnings has Lucas and Todd Ready for Olympic Ride
Courtesy of Jay Wells


Morgan Lucas and J.R. Todd, two of NHRA's rising young Top Fuel stars, have proven quite capable of handling any quarter-mile challenge they've encountered on asphalt, but neither expected to be driving a bobsled in Lake Placid, N.Y.

"I was surprised because I really didn't know much about it," said Todd, who agreed to join Lucas on a two-man sled for the second annual Geoff Bodine Bobsled Challenge at the U.S. Olympic team's training site, Jan. 5-6. "Morgan called and asked if I wanted to do it. I don't know much about bobsledding except it was about the only thing I watched during the Olympics. It definitely will be interesting."

The event, run in conjunction with U.S. National Bobsledding Championships, also features NASCAR drivers and is a fundraiser for Bodine's Bo-Dyn Bob Sled Project and the U.S. Bobsled Team as they prepare for the 2010 XXI Winter Olympic games in Vancouver, B.C.

When Morgan Lucas heard about this ice escapade prospect, his mind immediately flashed to one of his favorite Disney movies - Cool Runnings.

"This is going to be so cool," said an elated Lucas. "Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined doing something like this. Moreover, to participate with the NASCAR drivers makes this even more special.

"Driving an Olympic Bobsled is beyond any comprehension I could have dreamed when I began driving. I've seen it on television like so many others, but now the thought of actually being in one only leads me into what the feeling is going to be."

The drivers will race on a slightly shorter (three-quarters of a mile) track than the U.S. championship contenders and will be hitting speeds in excess of 60 miles per hour.

Bodine and Said
All racing drivers will go through a training session on Friday, Jan. 5, before their two practice sessions at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Qualifying starts at 3 p.m.

Todd Bodine, the 2006 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion, Brett Bodine, Boris Said, Kevin Lepage and legendary Dick Trickle are among the stock car drivers expected.

"Hopefully we won't end up on our heads," said Todd, who won 2006 rookie of the year honors after winning three races and finishing second once in the season's last 11 races. "Morgan said he wanted me to steer the sled . . . and that could be trouble."

The Bodine Bobsled Challenge begins on Saturday, Jan. 6, with the first sled taking the track at 10 a.m., and the final race is schedule at 2 p.m. Victory Lane celebrations are being held in the Fan Zone along with awards given to the National Championship winners.

"We welcome Morgan and J.R. coming to our event," said Geoff Bodine, the 1986 Daytona 500 winner. "However, we're a little worried they might whip up on the NASCAR guys. Drag racers are accustomed to just speed. They don't use a break pedal, they don't slow down at all and that's what a bobsled does. It keeps accelerating all the way down the run.

"There aren't any break pedals on a bobsled. The NASCAR guys keep reaching with their foot trying to push on things trying to whoa up for the corners and you can't. I have a feeling the NHRA guys are going to catch on to this real quick and they could come out on top. The sleds are like the IROC series, with all being equal, so it comes down to the driver. We'll find out who will be better - NHRA or NASCAR.

Bodine chuckled when Lucas queried the 18-time NASCAR race winner about a gas pedal. "The gas pedal is Mother Nature. When she takes over, it's a thrill. It's a completely different feeling than being in a race car. The NASCAR guys last year couldn't believe it because it is an out of control feeling. Mother Nature starts pulling you down that hill and it doesn't stop until you get to the bottom."

SPEED channel will be airing the two-day affair with a two-hour practice and qualifying show on Saturday, Jan. 6 at 2 p.m. (EST) followed by the competition rounds airing on Sunday, Jan. 7 at 2:p.m.

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