Veteran bobsledders Morgan Lucas and Jeg Coughlin Jr., together with rookie competitors Shawn Langdon and Melanie Troxel, will take on a formidable group of NASCAR stars on the 20-turn Olympic bobsled course on historic Mount Van Hoevenberg. The goals are clear — bring glory to the NHRA and raise money for the Bo-Dyn Bobsled Project, which makes bobsleds for our U.S. athletes.
Team NHRA captain Morgan Lucas is the defending champion of the NHRA versus NASCAR portion of the event and has three podium finishes on the mountain. Coughlin also has tasted success, earning a medal in the timed section of the race two years ago.
“Racing bobsleds is one of the most unique experiences I’ve ever had,” Coughlin said. “In drag racing we’re cinched in our cars as tight as can be and we go straight down the track. It’s something I’ve done thousands of times. In bobsledding, you’re not strapped in at all and when they feed you into that ice chute you have no choice but to take it down the mountain. It’s going to the bottom of the hill. How it arrives is up to you.
“Of course, bobsledding is one of those Olympic sports you watch and say, ‘I would do that,’ but until you do there’s no way of expressing how much ability it takes. I have such admiration for our athletes. I’ve made probably 40 or so runs in my life and I’m just now at a point where I don’t feel totally out of control. To see our Olympic athletes go from the top and hit speeds of 90 mph yet make it look so easy is mind-boggling.”
Lucas, who usually drives the GEICO Powersports/Lucas Oil Top Fuel dragster, will pilot his own Lucas Oil/GEICO Powersports-branded sled this weekend, while five-time world champion Coughlin will slip into his yellow-and-black JEGS.com bobsled.
“I think Jeg would agree that the more runs you make the better you get,” Lucas said. “The first several times you’re just trying to make it down the hill on the runners. Then you spend time with the guys and girls on the Olympic team and the stuff they’re telling you starts to make sense. There are so many subtle things you can do to be quicker. It’s a lot like drag racing in that regard…you’re searching for thousandths of a second.”
Lucas and Coughlin will spend Friday and Saturday tutoring Langdon and Troxel, who are anxious to get up to speed.
“I can’t wait to give it a try,” said Troxel, driver of the ProCare Rx R2B2 Pro Mod Corvette. “I’ve heard lots of stories about bobsledding. Of course the one everyone seems to like telling me is the one about Bob Vandergriff turning his sled over near the top of the course and going down on his head. I’m really hoping to avoid that bit of excitement. I plan to pick the other guy’s brains about how to do this. It sounds pretty crazy but also very fun.”
Added Langdon, “I went up last year and watched what they were doing so I have an idea of what it will be like,” said the driver of the Lucas Oil/Speedco dragster. “I made a few runs myself so at least I know what to expect. I love racing so I plan on having fun no matter what.”
The event will be divided into two races. The first pits each individual racer regardless of team affiliation going against the clock in two official runs down the course. The second sets up a drag racing-style ladder with the NHRA pros on one side and the NASCAR stars on the other. The final of that event will pit the best NASCAR sledder against the top NHRA pilot.
Team NASCAR consists of 2009 Rookie of the Year Joey Logano, event founder Geoff Bodine, multi-time Bo-Dyn Challenge winner Boris Said, two-time Nationwide Series champion Randy LaJoie, seven-time off-road champion Carl Renezeder, Truck Series champion Todd Bodine, and Whelen Series champions George Brunnhoelzl III and Philip Morris. IRL racer Dan Wheldon also will be on hand but will not compete.
The Bo-Dyn Bobsled Project is the brainchild of Geoff Bodine, who attended a bobsled race more than a decade ago only to find out the U.S. athletes were using old, castoff sleds from their European counterparts. Bodine then joined forces with auto racing designer Bob Cuneo of Chassis Dynamics in Oxford, Conn., to create “Made-in-America” bobsleds for the United States men’s and women’s national teams.
Since switching to Bo-Dyn sleds, U.S. athletes have risen to the top of the sport, winning multiple Olympic and World Cup medals in both two-man and four-man competition. They are considered favorites at the upcoming Vancouver Games.
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