My name is Rob Bodle. I’m a regular middle class guy that has survived some interesting bumps in the road of life and find myself at 53 years old living a dream that many of my friends would like to try themselves. My story is a little different in a some ways, but the base narrative is that I am a regular guy with a hard working wife, a mortgage payment, and taxes to pay, probably just like most of you reading this. Somehow still I have found a way to become a professional race are driver.
I grew up in the Maryland suburbs of Washington DC and am college educated from Towson University(knows as Towson St. in the prehistoric times when I attended). During my college years I began what became a long career in commercial music radio. I worked my way up from being the late night weekend disc jockey to being part of several popular morning shows, including the Howard Stern Show.
I worked in Baltimore and Washington. After moving into management I got to live in some cool places like Sioux Falls, SD and Sarasota, FL. As high profile as this work can be, the pay is not that high and with my success I made a solid middle class living. I married a cute blonde with striking blue eyes who was a special education school teacher. Added together we were a middle class couple.
During my time in Florida a virus went to my heart and the resulting condition nearly killed me. I nearly died of congestive heart failure and almost needed a transplant. Lucky me, though, I improved and dodged that kind of fun. I even went back to my career, but a relapse five years later put an end to that.
When I again recovered and regained the ability to live my life in a very normal sort of way, I started looking for an outlet for my creative energy. I found that I could both write and take some pretty respectable pictures. What followed was an unexpected opportunity to work for Mustang Enthusiast Magazine. I am a life long Mustang lover and this was a chance to recharge my life batteries. The surprises continued when the editor, Larry Jewett, suggested that I write about club road race mustangs and track day cars. He also suggested that if I got a racing license it would add credibility to my writing. He was right.
I spent a good three years doing that work and going to some great race tracks. I owned and raced one of the two Steeda 95 Cobra R’s that were raced in what is now the Continental Tire Challenge Series. When the magazine ended I was left with a desire to race. I found a little big of sponsor help among the many Mustang industry contacts I had met over my ME time. I swapped out the Cobra R for an FR500C and continued to compete.
I was a solid middle of the pack racer. I had a decent race car that was better than some that I raced against but I didn’t have the bank account to get the seat time and coaching that I needed to get a lot better. I did win the occasional race, but nobody would call me a champion. In 2012 I sold my FR500C and bought a different “C”. At the same time I met Joe Thomas, who became my crew chief.
Between the new race car and a mechanic with great knowledge and experience making race cars go faster, we had a pretty strong year racing in NASA’s AIX class. We raced guys that we knew were fast and while we didn’t often beat them, we were keeping up now. A big step forward.
Just before the start of the 2013 season, my primary sponsor called to say that they needed to cut back and that if I wanted to keep racing that I should find a new sponsor. I did. Its a great story that I will save for another time, but for them club racing wasn’t going to help grow their business. They wanted to race at a professional level. And with that came the dawning of the dream.
Caribbean Food Delights is a Tappan, NY based Jamaican bakery that sells its frozen baked products in Wal-Marts and grocery stores across the country. They wanted to race with me. We chose the legendary Trans Am Road Racing Series as our venue and set out on a rookie pro racing series with our Mustang FR500C in 2013.
We had an exciting year. We ran 8 of the series 10 races. This included visits to several of my bucket list courses, including Road America and Daytona. I managed to get onto the podium 5 times with one finish first in class. I finished 2nd in class championship points and won Rookie of the Year. It was great.
Remember, I am a regular guy with a middle class financial status and virtually no money to throw at race cars. Finding the resources to be able to race even with a sponsor is nearly a full time job and its hard and stressful. This is why StangTV is interested in a racing blog from me.
I am very likely not a better racer than many of the club racers reading this. I certainly don’t have the money to do it. In doing it therein lies the adventure.
So, here we are racing in 2014. The class has grown and brought in more and better drivers. The level of challenge has increased by a significant margin. The series is 11 races in 2014 and the championship started with back to back race weekends in early March in Florida. With this past winter it was great to get that 10 days in Sebring and Homestead-Miami but my race events were about the worst that I’ve had.
Race 1 ended early and abruptly when I had a first ever panic attack in the race car. With my heart condition it was a serious event. It turned out that it was nothing more than a reaction to my forgetting to breath and then not being able to get my breath back with my belts so tight. Forgetting to breath is actually fairly common among track drivers and racers, its just that in my case it started a chain reaction that ended our day.
The next weekend at Homestead Miami Speedway, we figured out the issue and we actually were good in qualifying. The race started by passing several cars on the opening lap. We were sitting 4th and running according to plan. That plan called for me to save my tires and let anyone that I passed go back by if they wanted to race. Shortly after that, however, a shift issue took 2nd gear away and left just running laps to get a finish and as many points as I could acquire.
Two bad finishes to start the season is not the end of the world. To give readers some perspective on how tight our budget is, I am sitting in a restaurant that has free wifi writing this. We sleep in the trailer at races and if we need to go online we go find a restaurant with free wi-fi. Tomorrow is practice and qualifying for round 3 of the 2014 Trans Am Championship at Road Atlanta. This starts a run of three races in four weeks with races to follow at Mosport(officially known now as Canadian Tire Motorsports Park) in Canada and at New Jersey Motorsports Park.
That’s all for now, but there will be more soon. We are trying some brand new, development brake rotors at this event. Our race car looks all new. The event is sharing Road Atlanta with Formula Drift and….we are sleeping in the trailer again tonight.