When Geoff Bodine first chipped in his two cents on how to build a better and faster bobsled 18 years ago, he had to take his plans to the heart of U.S. bobsledding country: Lake Placid, N.Y.
The goal for him and the USA Bobsled and Skeleton Federation was to win its first men's Olympic gold medal since 1948.
Now one of their four-man teams captured that prize at the Vancouver Olympics three months ago, and Team USA and Bodine want to maintain that elite status.
This time, the NASCAR legend is bringing bobsledding to the heart of racing country: Cabarrus County.
Bodine's nonprofit sled construction team, The Bo-Dyn (pronounced just like his last name, "Bo-dine") Bobsled Project, announced earlier this year that it would move its operations to Concord after the Olympics. The organization hopes the NASCAR community will buy into the project and offer not just facility space but also expertise in engineering and fabrication.
Bodine's interest in bobsledding has become fairly well known in bobsledding and NASCAR circles. A native of Chemung, N.Y., the 1986 Daytona 500 winner was disappointed to learn that the sleds Americans were using in competition were not American-made.
Instead, they were being made in Europe, whose countries dominated the sport at the time. And they were often outdated models, cast off by teams that were moving to new technology.
Bodine offered his stock car knowledge and experience to the United States' bobsledding brass, drawing parallels between the physics of the two sports.
"When I told them up in Lake Placid, they thought I'd fly back to North Carolina and forget all about it," Bodine said. "They didn't know me. My word was my bond. When I told them I would build them some bobsleds, I meant it. When I went back to North Carolina, I got started on it.
"It's been 18 years. After 18 days we should have quit. We could see it was going to be very difficult. We found out it would cost a lot more money than we thought."
After about five years, Bodine and Bob Cuneo, an old NASCAR engineering friend, formed the Bo-Dyn Project. Cuneo participated from his Chassis Dynamics office in Oxford, Conn.
A self-described "klutz," Cuneo said he had never seen a bobsled before Bodine asked him to design one. An expert in aerodynamics and drag, Cuneo understood that a fast bobsled depended on energy conservation.
"There are only two things that propel a bobsled: gravity and weight," Cuneo said. "The push athletes push the sled, and that's like having an engine that makes it go.
"Going down the course, you do everything to conserve the energy. You have to do everything possible to scrub off that energy. You do that by making the sled conform to the track, by making runners more efficient, and by making the driver steer less."
Cuneo is ready to back away from the project and serve just as a consultant. Bodine is looking for the same level of expertise from NASCAR's current crop of bright minds.
Team USA's bobsled fleet - more than 20 sleds - was transported to a Cornelius warehouse shortly after the Olympics. Bo-Dyn staffers have contacted several area race teams as well as local and state government officials to rally support of the project.
"We've spoken to numerous folds, and there's a lot of enthusiasm and support," said Ryan McDaniel, vice president of economic development for Cabarrus Economic Development Corp. "Everyone wants to help. We're still in the hunt. Everyone is maxed out and doesn't have the space."
There's no timetable for getting into a facility, Bodine said, but it will be important to be ready for the start of practice in the fall for the next World Cup season.
John Morgan, executive director of the Bo-Dyn Project and a long-time bobsledding television analyst, explained that Team USA's gold-medal-winning sled, called the Night Train, was designed specifically for the Vancouver track.
Now it's time to start developing the team's sleds for the 2014 Sochi (Russia) Olympics.