Bodine checks out oval for Free State 500

Geoff Bodine and Ron Barfield Jr. give Phakisa Freeway Oval top marks.
Geoff Bodine has given Phakisa Freeway's 2.5-km banked oval race track in South Africa an enthusiastic thumbs up.

The veteran of 27 years of NASCAR racing and a former winner of the blue-ribboned Daytona 500 made the trip recently to help promote the first-ever ASA/NASCAR-type race in South Africa, the Free State 500, which will be run over 207 laps / 500 kilometre at Phakisa near Welkom on Sunday, January 31.

Bodine, who retired from competition in 2005 and now works for the Make-A-Wish Foundation as a volunteer, chauffeured members of the media and Phakisa Freeway dignitaries around the track on a hot summer's day and gave them their first experience of American stock car racing.

Together with compatriot Ron Barfield Jr, a former Nationwide NASCAR driver who owns the ASA Member Track Dillon Motor Speedway in South Carolina and who will be fielding four cars at Phakisa, the two Americans were full of praise for the only circuit of its kind in Africa and predicted a successful inaugural Free State 500 in January.

"Ron and I were surprised to discover that there was a track like this in South Africa. It's similar to the Las Vegas Speedway in Nevada (one of the fastest oval tracks in America) and I'm sure it will provide real close and exciting racing in the Free State 500," said Bodine.

The event is a joint initiative of the Free State government and the American Speed Association (ASA) based in Daytona Beach, Florida USA and the 'Battle Between Two Continents' (as the event is being billed) will see drivers from both countries compete against each other in the Transcontinental version of America's most popular motor racing formula.

Journalists from the print, radio and television media enjoyed a few laps of the circuit in two Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS stock cars, which, together with 23 other cars, were shipped from the USA for January's historical race.

Among the dignitaries were Dhilosen Pillay, CEO of Phakisa Major Sport Events and Development Corporation and the day's activities were attended by Free State Premier Ace Magashule and Phakisa chairperson Thabo Pietersen.

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Geoff Bodine at Daytona [Pic credit: Getty for NASCAR]

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