After more than 20 years in radio, Rob Bodle is enjoying an unlikely second act many of his former colleagues would envy -- as a racecar driver. Bodle, who was known as Rob “Carpenter” during his broadcasting days, also works as a freelance motorsports photographer and occasional automotive writer, sometimes penning publicity materials for other drivers.
Bodle, 53, lives what he calls a “quiet life” with his wife in New Bern, N.C., when he’s not burning up the course in his Mustang as a driver in the Trans Am Series. The series hosts 10 races a year all over the country, which Bodle attends with his team, RBI Competition. He even has a sponsor to cover the costs, the national frozen food chain Caribbean Food Delights.
He says of racing, “It’s the closest thing I’ve come to my radio work.”
Consider his examples. Racing, he says, is “competitive, team-oriented and I get to meet some of the coolest people. Doesn’t that sound just like radio?” On the flip side, radio is “about winning. It’s about performance and making the right choices. That’s what racing is about [too]. It’s a team sport. I do what I do by myself like I did when I was on the air, but you can’t do that without the support of the group.”
On the track, Bodle’s stats are impressive. He says he’s currently leading in points to become the series’ rookie of the year, and he’s No. 2 in points overall among all the drivers.
Bodle started his radio career at WPOC Baltimore and went on to program stations in Sioux Falls, S.D.; Killeen, Texas; and Huntsville, Ala.; as well as country WCTQ Sarasota, Fla. His last programming job was top 40 WERO (Bob 93.3) Greenville/New Bern, but health issues forced him to retire from radio. He’d been diagnosed with cardiomyopathy in 1999 (the same condition that kept Randy Travis in the news this summer) and doctors told him he could no longer work a full-time job. He left radio in 2002 after a relapse.
All this, of course, begs the question, “What is someone with a heart condition doing driving a racecar?” Bodle has a surprising answer: “The doctors I work with think the adrenalin therapy I get from going out on the track once a month or so helps me get better.”
His condition, he says, is dangerous when he gets sick, but otherwise “doesn’t affect me minute to minute. I just had [tests] a couple of weeks ago and [doctors] told me I will never have a heart attack. That’s what they want you to avoid when you’re racing a car is having an attack of some kind, going off the track and wiping out four or five guys.”
Finding his new passion was a big pick-me-up for Bodle, who grew depressed when his radio career was cut short. “Working in the radio business I was surrounded by people every day,” he says. “My phone was constantly ringing. I was in the office. There was always somebody to talk to.” After it ended, while his wife was at work Bodle found that “if the phone didn’t ring I could go a whole day without speaking to anyone except the Golden Retriever, who didn’t talk back.” Restoring a classic 1969 Mustang to keep himself occupied during that time is what eventually led him to his current career.
More recently, he’s found a way to combine his old and new jobs. After becoming a fan of country singer Ashley Monroe, he reached out to her management for permission and artwork, and now sports Monroe’s name on his racecar.
Asked if there’s a particular skill set from his radio days he now applies to his new career, Bodle says, “There is one thing that jumps right out at me. I am the best racecar driver in the paddock when it comes to meeting people. I have a sponsor. I’m there to help sell product and help promote the series, and when people walk into my paddock to look at my car, of all the teams I’m the most comfortable person talking to all these people I’ve never seen before.” In another correlation to his old career, he says, “They know who I am, just like they knew who I was when I was in radio. It’s the same deal: Take pictures, answer questions, sign autographs, be friendly.”