ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – One of the greatest to ever drive helped bring NASCAR back to the region.

Geoff Bodine, the 1996 winner at Watkins Glen International, was a pivotal part in bringing the sport back to to the track. In 1986, Bodine helped spearhead an effort to have a major NASCAR race at a fledgling WGI for the first time in 21 years. Bodine predicted that not only would the race be must-see, but it would change the face of the Twin Tiers forever.

Now, nearly 40 years later, the Chemung native shares some of his greatest memories of being at the track. From his days of fandom during his youth, to being a special guest on our special show The Glen: All-Access NASCAR, Bodine truly has seen it all at the world’s most famous road course.

“We put a lot into that speedway,” Bodine said. “I went there as a kid and climbed the trees on the old straightaway. I didn’t have enough money to pay to get in, so I just climbed a tree to watch down the straightaway,” added Bodine. “Then in the old garages with my father, what a thrill.”

Bodine’s prediction was as true as it gets in terms of how successful the race’s return would be. Each year, fan attendance can be expected around 100,000, making it the largest outdoor sporting event in the northeast. Watkins Glen International has been voted by fans as the most popular race track by USA Today several times.

Moment after moment, race after race, NASCAR at The Glen is an experience fans will always cherish. For Bodine, his final circuit win was at the 1996 race at Watkins Glen. After years of close races, including two runner-up finishes in 1990 and 1997, finally being in victory lane at WGI meant everything.

“The ’96 race was a pretty important race for me,” Bodine said. “Actually, it’s the last race I won in cup (Winston Cup Series), but we overcame a lot of obstacles that day.”

For Bodine, their family name is graced at the Bodine grandstands at the track. From the family’s origins at Chemung Speedrome along with brothers Todd and Brett, who are also very successful in motorsports, Watkins Glen International is the NASCAR home of the Bodine’s.

“A lot of great memories, probably should have won three or four races there. You get one, it was enough for me because that’s home and in front of the hometown people.”

Bodine recorded 18 wins on the NASCAR circuit in his career and was the 1982 Winston Cup Series Rookie of the Year. Geoff was even named one of the Top 50 Greatest NASCAR Drivers ever in 1998.

Don’t forget to watch The Glen All-Access NASCAR special on WETM-TV NBC Friday, August 19 at 7:30 pm. 18 Sports will get you ready for race weekend with in-depth stories, interviews, and so much more.