Funny Car driver Bob Bode must have felt as out of place as Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz" on Friday.
And not because of the afternoon wind that ended racing early in the NHRA SummitRacing.com Nationals at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Bode, a part-time professional racer, completed the best run of his NHRA career and won the provisional pole for the first time in his land-based racing career.
"We didn’t know we’d step it up to where we would be in here," the former speedboat racer said of his first appearance in the post-qualifying media center in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series.
"We’ve always had hopes. All the stars lined up."
Bode, who raced speedboats for 21 years before moving to Funny Cars nine years ago, said he entered this week optimistic after the team had a "good tuneup" last weekend at the NHRA event in Houston.
"The guys are just unbelievably happy," Bode said.
It was a bizarre day for an estimated crowd of 10,000, roughly half the normal size for Friday racing at Las Vegas NHRA national events.
Temperatures in the 50s and a brief rain shower around noon delayed qualifying for about three hours in the three pro categories.
Once racing resumed, the first Pro Stock session was completed, with Greg Anderson gaining the top spot with an elapsed time of 6.718 seconds (205.32 mph) for team owner Ken Black of Las Vegas.
Bode was in the second pair of Funny Cars to complete runs, and his time of 4.145 seconds (303.43) over the 1,000-foot distance made him the fastest among the first five cars.
Before the next pair ran, the failure of a bulb on the starting line "Christmas tree" caused a short circuit in the computerized timing system. That caused a 90-minute delay to fix the problem.
Among the final 12 Funny Cars left to make passes, Ron Capps came within 3 one-thousandths of a second from ending Bode’s dream afternoon, but no one could beat his time.
"We just hope to qualify in the top half of the (16-car) field," said Bode, 57, of Barrington, Ill. "I was with the crew listening to the times of the other cars. After a few ran, we were thinking maybe we can end up qualifying ninth. Then more ran, and we thought maybe seventh. We got nervous when only a couple were left."
Bode competed in 10 of 24 NHRA events last year and advanced to the second round twice, including at Las Vegas. This year, he has lost in the first round twice and failed to qualify twice.
"We’re racing against the best in the world, and we get beat up pretty regularly, so to have something like this happen will fuel us for a long time," Bode said.
For his time to hold up to start Sunday’s championship eliminations as the No. 1 seed, Bode will have to survive sessions at noon and 3 p.m. today.
Contact reporter Jeff Wolf at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-0247.watch video