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Sunday, July 10, 2011
Janet Bodine has a story worth telling


CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- We often get caught up in the tabloid-type stories that take place off the track in NASCAR, most of them because of something controversial or what might be considered juicy.

Kurt Busch recently announced he and his wife, Eva, were divorcing as he explained his new girlfriend in Victory Lane at Infineon Raceway. Paige Duke recently was dismissed as Miss Sprint Cup apparently because inappropriate photos taken during her college years appeared on the Internet.

And then there was the traffic debacle on Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway that has many on a tabloid-like feeding frenzy.

Well, here's an off-the-track story that is neither controversial nor juicy, but is a story worth telling.

It is a story about Janet Bodine, who on most weekends is known as the wife of Todd Bodine, a two-time Truck series champion nicknamed "The Onion" because of his bald head.

It is the story of a Good Samaritan.

We don't hear enough about the good deeds people do, but last Saturday as Janet was driving on Interstate 77 near Mooresville, N.C., she witnessed an accident that ultimately resulted in the death of an 18-year-old woman.

Janet was driving southbound and the pickup involved in the accident was going northbound when it reportedly swerved, hit a guardrail and flipped. Janet easily could have kept going as others did, particularly since she was going in the opposite direction and was separated by a median.

She didn't. She turned around and arrived on the scene in time to realize both girls were seriously injured and that the pickup was leaking fuel that could ignite at any moment.

She didn't worry about the danger she might be putting her life in. As a trained paramedic she quickly organized a plan, having a friend with her call 911 and ask for two helicopters or ambulances, a fire truck and police. She assessed the severity of the injuries and told others not trained what to do to keep Stephanie Cernuto stable while she tended to her more severely injured twin sister, Jennifer, who died at the scene.

She did what many wouldn't for fear of lawsuit or risk of their own life and became involved.

"Sometimes I think that people are scared to stop," Janet said. "Sometimes people … maybe they don't think something is so bad. Maybe sometimes people don't want to get involved because they are afraid of legal actions.

"But there were a lot of people who did stop. There were a lot who felt helpless."

Not all did. There was a man who identified himself as a combat medic who chipped in. There was a nurse who did what she could. There was another man who used the shirt off his back to help stop Stephanie's bleeding.

But Janet is getting most of the headlines, in part because she is the wife of a NASCAR driver and in part because she was willing to step forward to tell how she saw the accident unfold.

"Yeah, that's one of the things I struggle with," Janet said. "If I wasn't married to Todd or people didn't know who I was, would all of this attention be occurring? Everybody else that stopped at that scene lent a hand. They need to be credited, too.

"But when I introduced myself as Janet Bodine the question automatically was, 'Oh, are you Todd's wife?' instead of 'Oh, are you a medic and can help?'"

Janet also struggles with the attention her account of the accident has brought. From her perspective a tractor trailer swerved into the pickup's lane, forcing the pickup to swerve. Another witness driving behind the pickup said the truck swerved into the tractor trailer's lane to start the incident.

"I can only tell what I saw," Janet said.

That's not important. What's important is that Janet stopped, used the training she began developing at the age of 15 in Pennsylvania and did what she could to help save at least one life.

"Whether you're a NASCAR driver's wife, a football player's wife, we all lose our identity because we are there for our husbands," Janet said. "But we all have different passions somewhere else."

Janet gave up her passion for working as a paramedic to be with Todd at the track. She wants to be there to help take care of him or any of their close friends if there's an accident on the track.

"Because of our [racing] schedule, it's almost impossible for me to do what I truly love to do," Janet said.

Because of what she loves to do, Janet has an uncontrollable urge to stop whenever she sees somebody in need on the side of the road. That's why she stopped last Saturday when others kept going, despite the risks.

"When you work in this business you really don't look at it as putting your own life at risk," Janet said. "You almost don't even think about your own life. You worry about the risk of others. What I didn't want was that vehicle to roll over and trap that girl in place."

It's a story worth telling. It's a Good Samaritan story.

It is a reminder that not every off-the-track story in NASCAR has to be made for a tabloid.