January 28, 2010
CONCORD, N.C. – For most of his adult life, Bob Cuneo has worked on race cars and bobsleds from his Chassis Dynamics shop in Oxford, Conn. The technological guru behind the Bo-Dyn Bobsled Project, Inc., makers of Made-In-America bobsleds, will mostly retire and the United States sled operation will re-locate to the heart of NASCAR country in Concord, N.C.
The change of scenery is slated to occur in the spring after the Vancouver Winter Games. Concord is less than 30 miles northeast of Charlotte, home of the Lowe’s Motor Speedway.
“This is the best time to transition,” said Cuneo. “I have worked 100 hours a week, 12 months a year and I have other goals to address. Besides, it’s smart for the team to look at younger people.”
However, he won’t disappear. Cuneo, 62, will remain with the Bo-Dyn Bobsled initiative as designer and consultant, while turning over the hands-on applications to a pair of former colleagues. He will stay active in research and development, and will guide Jim Garde and Mike McLaughlin.
"There has been no greater contributor to the Olympic success of U.S. bobsledders than Bob Cuneo,” said David Kurtz, Vice President of International Affairs for the International Federation of Bobsleigh and Toboggan (FIBT). “His simultaneous service as Chairman of the FIBT Bobsled Materials Committee represented well his character for fairness and good sportsmanship. We are still going to need that guy to hang around close to the ice track.”
United States men and women, in Bo-Dyn bobsleds, have won four Olympic medals (including gold by Jill Bakken in 2002), a world championship in 2009, many World Cup races and World Cup podiums since the project gathered steam in this decade. In November, United States driver John Napier won a World Cup two-man race with teammate Steve Holcomb second. The teammates exchanged places the next day in the four-man competition. Their performances were a U.S. first in World Cup racing. It nearly occurred again in January when Holcomb’s four man Night Train crew finished second with Napier third at another World Cup event.
The 2010 World Cup campaign ended last Sunday with Holcomb winning the overall driving titles in four-man and combined (two-man and four-man results totaled).
Shauna Rohbock and Erin Pac have also made themselves known with regular stops in the top three on the women’s World Cup tour. Rohbock, in particular, has Olympic and World Championship silver medals on her resume along with impressive World Cup achievements, including two wins this winter.
“I would be lying if I said we weren’t a little nervous about the retirement of Bob Cuneo and what he means to the Bo-Dyn Project,” said Darrin Steele, Chief Executive Officer of the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation. “Geoff Bodine provided the vision, but Bob Cuneo is the man who made the vision a reality. Hearing the confidence that he has with Jim Garde and Mike McLaughlin, as well as the excitement from the folks in North Carolina gives us a lot of comfort and excitement. Bob’s endorsement is what we’ve been waiting for and now we have it. The Bo-Dyn Project has been critical to our success over the past decade and we would like this partnership to continue over the next decade and beyond.”
Garde, of Concord, is a former Chassis Dynamics employee, who started with Cuneo at age 11. He later became head fabricator for Hendrick Motorsports before starting his own business. Hendrick’s team just completed a season where it thoroughly dominated the 2009 Sprint Cup Series.
“He’s a top notch fabricator and technician,” said Cuneo of Garde.
McLaughlin, of Mooresville, N.C., was a top modified driver who later competed in the Busch Grand National Series. Now he has gained a further measure of fame as the driving coach for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Raybestos Rookie of the Year Joey Logano.
“I always knew Mike as a well-respected driver who did his own fabrication,” continued Cuneo.
Both are transplanted Northerners who enjoy snowmobiling and, in typical fashion, working on their own sleds.
“One of the reasons they are doing this is they can’t believe what we’ve accomplished,” remarked Cuneo. “To be this successful they are used to seeing a much higher level of funding. They are amazed at what we’ve done and view this as a challenge.”
North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue is also a proponent of the move. "North Carolina is the capital of stock car racing, so the move for Bo-Dyn
Concord Mayor J. Scott Padgett added, "It will be an honor to have the Bo-Dyn Bobsled team working out of Concord. Geoff Bodine brings credibility with his expertise in motor racing. We are all excited about the Olympics and we believe this team can be a winner for the United States and I know it's a win for Concord."
“I have had the opportunity to meet with representatives of the Bo-Dyn Bobsled organization,” said Karen Ray, Director of Business Affairs for the North Carolina Motorsports Association. “The parallels are numerous between stock car racing and bobsledding and we have the resources to be a part of developing an Olympic gold medal winning team. The move to Concord, the heart of NASCAR and stock car racing, is a natural and fitting transition. We have the knowledge, manufacturing facilities, engineering expertise, fabrication skills, technical skills, athletic training and available workforce for success and we have a track record to back it up. This is an exciting opportunity for both the North Carolina Motorsports Association and Bo-Dyn Bobsled Project, Inc. and we look forward to a successful relationship.”
This reaction came as no surprise to Cuneo: “The response from the racing community in Concord, the Chamber of Commerce, the Mayor’s office, the Governor and the economic development people has been such that you’d think that a major car-maker was moving in.”
However, the Bodine effort had modest beginnings 18 years ago when Geoff Bodine, watching the 1992 Albertville Winter Games on television, didn’t like what he saw. The winner of the 1986 Daytona 500 began the project after watching U.S. athletes finish down the results list at those Games while using sleds that were European cast-offs. Feeling that he could bring NASCAR technology to the ice, Bodine seeded the initiative with his own money. In the meantime, the sleds were evolving courtesy of Cuneo; the athletes were improving; the coaching became world class; and the Americans began to reach the finish line sooner than the competition.
Along the way, the Lucas Oil Geoff Bodine Bobsled Challenge presented by Whelen Engineering was created in Lake Placid, N.Y. where one of only four North American courses is located. The event, which recently concluded its fifth edition, pits NASCAR and NHRA drivers against themselves and the clock to raise awareness and needed money for the U.S. teams.
The result of all this activity is a team that now can win any race it enters, including the Winter Games in February. A victory on the track at Whistler, north of Vancouver, will end a men’s Olympic gold medal drought that extends 62 years back to St. Moritz, Switzerland in 1948.
If that mission gets accomplished next month, with another medal or two from the women, Cuneo expects this addition to Concord to be another source of community pride.
“People down there are surrounded by winners,” stated Cuneo. “We know how to win and we are associating ourselves with proven winners. The interest will be infectious.”
With the move, it is anticipated that one day the genesis of Olympic bobsled gold medals will be found in the heart of stock car racing.
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For more information on North Carolina Economic Development, please log on to www.ncedb.com.
For more information on the North Carolina Motorsports Association, please log on to www.motorsportsnc.org.
For more information on the United States Bobsled and Skeleton Federation please log on to www.usbsf.com.
The Bo-Dyn Bobsled Project, Inc. graciously accepts and appreciates your support of our Made-in-America efforts. To make a donation, and for more information on this Made-In-America initiative, please log on to www.bodinebobsled.com.
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