The Bodine brothers of Chemung, N.Y., seem to be involved in a stock car racing version of "Family Feud," but as far as NASCAR is concerned, it's a private matter, and the car bashing and trash talking between Geoff and Brett last Saturday at the Brickyard 400 wasn't enough to warrant a suspension, fine or even reprimand.
"We took a long look at the incident itself, and it appeared to be just what Brett Bodine said it was, just a racing incident," said Kevin Triplett, NASCAR spokesman, from Daytona Beach, Fla., headquarters. "If it hadn't been brothers, or Geoff hadn't brought the bad feeling up on TV, it would have pretty much gone unnoticed."
The brothers, both driving Ford Thunderbirds, were battling for the lead midway through stock car racing's first race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway when Geoff tapped Brett in the rear before passing him. Once Geoff got in front, Brett tapped him back, causing Geoff to lose control and go into a wild spin.
The accident knocked Geoff Bodine and Dale Jarrett out of the race and Brett Bodine went on to finish second behind Jeff Gordon, his highest finish of the year.
It seemed like one of any number of Winston Cup fender-bender accidents until Geoff said on television: "He spun me out. We've been having family problems, and he took it out on the race track. I never expected him to do that."
Brett denied that he had done it maliciously, but did acknowledge publicly the family feud with his brother--something well known among NASCAR regulars.
Although neither brother would say what started it, there were many stories. One source said that it stemmed from a joint souvenir business venture in which Brett, who drives for Kenny Bernstein, believed that Geoff was skimming profits to help finance his racing team.
There also has been talk that one of the brothers thought the other wasn't as concerned as he should have been when their mother had a heart attack last year.
Another rumor was that Brett, who is leaving Bernstein's team after this season, asked Geoff for help in starting his own team and Geoff implied that he didn't think Brett could handle it.
"Maybe it's just big brother being contested by little brother," Brett said. "We were never competitive until we started racing against each other. He's 10 years older than me, for God's sake."
Geoff is 45, Brett 35, and Todd, the other racing Bodine, is 29.
Whatever the cause, the feud had erupted before, and the older brothers acknowledged that they had not spoken for three or four months.
At Talladega, Ala., during practice for the May 1 Winston Select 500, the two got into a shouting match that could be heard over the roar of engines. Last month, after Geoff had won the Miller 500 at Pocono, Brett commented, "If I couldn't win a race on tires like he had, I'd pack up and go home."
Some thought the comment referred to the Hoosier-Goodyear tire war--Geoff was on Hoosiers, Brett on Goodyears--but those close to the situation said it was Brett's way of denigrating his brother's success.
"Do you have any brothers?" Geoff asked plaintively when he spoke later about the Indy incident. "Family things are tough to deal with sometimes. I shouldn't have mentioned it, but I did. I guess we'll get it worked out."
Still, Geoff did not back down from his original statement. Asked if he cared to reconsider his accusation about being spun out, he said: "I don't say things I don't mean. It was said once, and that's enough."
It was not Brett Bodine's first bumping incident this year. He was penalized five laps for banging into Morgan Shepherd in a race at Dover, Del.
And feuds carried out on the track are nothing new. Bobby Allison and Richard Petty were rubbing on one another so much in the 1970s that both were reprimanded.
Geoff Bodine and Dale Earnhardt feuded in the 1980s. Earnhardt, a hard-nosed North Carolinian, took exception to the Yankee intruder from New York.
More recently, Derrike Cope and Ted Musgrave had words after on-track incidents, and Jimmy Spencer was fined $5,000 for ramming Ken Schrader during a race at North Wilkesboro, N.C. That incident was similar to the Bodine brothers' in that Schrader first ran into Spencer, then Spencer retaliated.
The Bodines will be back on the track together Sunday at Watkins Glen, N.Y., but before that, there will be a family reunion Saturday night, planned long ago to celebrate their parents' anniversary, at the family home in Chemung.
"I can't wait," Todd said. "Mom's the boss in the family. I wouldn't want to be Brett or Geoff."