■ BOBBY BODE started 2022 hoping to show improvement following an encouraging 2021 Funny Car campaign that included his first career round win and qualifying at all nine races he attended . Bode achieved that and then some , also becoming an overnight sensation and receiving a gift from one of the top names in motorsports history .
Bode , who is a junior at Arizona State University , racked up four round wins this year heading into the finale at Pomona , including three during a memorable weekend at Houston . He advanced to the final , where he took on three-time world champ Matt Hagan of Tony Stewart Racing . After leading part of the race , the body blew off of Bode ’ s car during a massive explosion near the finish line , allowing Hagan to get past the 20-year-old standout .
Displaying equal parts frustration , anger , and anguish over the explosion , Bode chucked his gloves onto the ground , knowing how close the underdog was to his first career victory . But Hall- of-Fame driver and team owner Tony Stewart also noticed the passion and offered to buy Bode a new helmet after the explosion . “ That passion , that ’ s the kind of guy I like … I like that kid ,” Stewart said .
Stewart followed through and sent Bode a new helmet , the culmination of a moment he won ’ t ever forget . “ I wish the final would have ended differently , but when that moment happened , it took like a month for it to seem real ,” says Bode , a former Jr . Dragster racer . “ Tony getting me that new helmet , it was so cool . He ’ s one of the greatest drivers of all time .”
Beyond that , Bode has found the perfect balance of school and racing , reaching an ideal comfort level in the car and in his studies . He ’ s learned he can ’ t take homework on the road , but Bode has adjusted accordingly , thriving most of the year in his father ’ s Funny Car . He competed in his 10th race of the season in Pomona , showcasing all kinds of improvement and potential in the process .
“ I ’ ve kind of surprised myself with how far I ’ ve come . I ’ m not making as many rookie mistakes and on the tuneup side of the car , we ’ ve come a long way ,” Bode says . “ It ’ s been a good combo . When you see the incremental sheets and see we ’ re in the top eight most of the time , it kind of blows my mind . In Houston , we had a big breakthrough with our tuning and it ’ s really gone well from there .”
Bode and his team have proven their worth as the little guy competing against the bigger teams , and that ’ s been remarkably satisfying for him . As for the immediate future , he loves every bit of being a college student and hitting 9-10 Funny Car races per year , and he is eager to see that continue .
“ I ’ m happy being in school and having our racing schedule how it is now ,” says Bode , who holds career bests of 3.891-seconds at 322.04 mph . “ This year has probably been my smoothest year and I ’ ve really enjoyed it . Plus , I invited my friends from college to the Phoenix race and they all loved it , so that was awesome as well .” – RYAN MURRAY DI
88 | Drag Illustrated | DragIllustrated . com Issue 179