FROM THRILL SEEKER TO OVERPROTECTIVE FATHER, BODE DISCUSSES EMOTIONAL ROLLER COASTER WATCHING SON LICENSE
Bob Bode knows all too well the ups-and-downs of life behind the wheel of a nitro machine.
He has seen the highest of highs, with his one-and-only win coming at Brainerd way back in 2010. And he has seen the lowest of lows, with incidents like what happened to him Friday night in Indianapolis.
During the first round of qualifying on Friday, Bode blew a hole in the block of his Funny Car, creating a unique set of circumstances that created a flash fire inside the cockpit. While Bode emerged uninjured, it was a spectacular sight to witness under the lights during the only night session of the season.
“We were trucking along pretty good. We had pretty good early numbers and I felt like I was doing a good job staying in the middle and it didn’t do anything different and all of a sudden it was like somebody turned the inside of the car orange. It was bright orange and, for that split second, I got nervous,” Bode said. “The good part is, it blew out within a few seconds and I didn’t have to pull the fire bottles. When we got back I saw that we had pushed a head gasket and made a big hole in the back of the block. When I lifted, the body came up just enough that it got under the firewall. It didn’t hurt and I was fine, but it was pretty spectacular from the driver's seat.”
Following a fire-soaked run at well over 230 mph, a normal person would weigh the thrill of the hunt versus the danger associated with driving such a volatile ride. But nitro drivers are anything but normal.
“Actually, those are the kinds of runs that make you want to come back and do it again,” Bode said with a laugh. “When you look at it, you think, ‘boy, that is kind of silly.’ But we are so well protected. I didn’t even feel warm with all of the safety equipment. From where I sat, it was a fun, exciting ride and that just adds to the excitement.”
So does that thrill-seeking persona change when it is not you in the car, but a loved one?
Maybe a little.
Bode’s son, Bobby Bode, is currently a handful of runs away from obtaining his nitro license and the elder Bode hopes to have his son behind the wheel of his car at a race or two later this year. Bobby has made four of the six required runs and Bob hopes to return to Indy next weekend to complete the licensing process.
Bobby, who just turned 18, has more than a dozen passes in a Frank Hawley alcohol car, and has been racing Super Comp and other classes during his young career.
Now, Bob has to work on shifting his emotions from getting up for a run himself, to preparing to watch his son travel at over 300 miles-per-hour, especially after seeing first-hand exactly what can happen in one of these cars.
“It doesn’t bother me a bit thinking about it right now. Now, when I was standing at the starting line and he was on his fourth pass a couple of weeks ago, that is the moment it hits you,” Bode said. “I look at the car and know he is in there and I am going, ‘please kid, do everything right.’ And he always has up to this point.
“That moment, though, I have to say, until the chutes come out at the other end, I am on pins and needles. The guys can’t even talk to me because I am so out of shape over it. But he has been racing since he was 8 years old and I am confident he is going to do all of the right stuff.”