Todd Robertson, who lined up against championship contender Tony Bartone in the first round of the U.S. Nationals, has to be the only Top Alcohol Funny Car driver in the field who, just a couple of years ago, hadn't even heard of Bartone.
Until this year, Robertson operated far from the world of NHRA Top Alcohol Funny Car racing but drove a car just about as fast, a Pro Mod that he raced in Milan Dragway's eighth-mile Run What Ya Brung series. "That door car would make a lot of fast, crazy moves," said Robertson, who works on hot rods and other race cars and has built and tuned a seven-second, 650-horsepower snowmobile. "I wasn't racing on ADRL surfaces – they were Friday night surfaces – and the groove was always narrow."
Robertson enjoyed his best season in 2010, qualifying No. 1 nine times in 11 races, reaching the final round at seven, and winning four. "I drove that blown Pro Mod for four years, and the first two years, if it the car did anything stupid, I'd lift and people would call me a [sissy]," he said. "By the third year, after some runs they'd tell me they couldn't believe I stayed with it that long, and by the fourth year, my crew would get mad at me sometimes because I wouldn't lift no matter what the car was doing."
That experience in a hard-to-drive car served Robertson well this year, when he moved to Top Alcohol Funny Car and his car wouldn't let him keep his foot in it for the full quarter-mile. Then veteran Jay Payne, who's been racing since the 1960s and has competed for the past dozen years in Top Alcohol Funny Car, gave him a tip that changed everything: just add 30 pounds to the nose.
"The Funny Car doesn't move around as much as the Pro Mod did, but at about the 1,000-foot mark, it would try to take off in one direction or the other every time," Robertson said. "On the first run with 30 pounds of weight on the front end … boom – right to the finish line, no problem. Now, it makes it every time, and we're just starting to get a tune-up for it."
The 46-year-old from Harrison Township, Mich., whose cars for years have been backed by industrial manufacturer Eaton Corporation, a giant company with more than 70,000 employees and $16 billion a year in sales, made the big switch to NHRA competition in 2012. He bought a Brad Hadman-built Monte Carlo last spring, an ex-Miner Bros. car originally campaigned by all-time great Bucky Austin, and earned his license at the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series regional event at Indianapolis.
Robertson's first start came at the biggest race of them all, the U.S. Nationals, where he met up with Bartone, the eventual runner-up, in the first round of eliminations. Robertson qualified for the prestigious Indy field in his sixth NHRA start after missing the cut at the Norwalk national and regional events, the Chicago national and regional events, and the Cordova regional.
The car has the engine, transmission, and torque converter right out of Robertson's '06 Cobalt Pro Mod, and the same crew chief, Dennis Kolomyjec. "I have a really good crew that's been behind me forever," said Robertson, whose Pro Power Motorsports team has run in the 5.70s at just short of 250 mph. "When we were running the Pro Mod, I'd already have 80 or 100 passes by this point in the season, but I've got only 30 passes in the Funny Car so far this year. We never test, and that makes it a lot harder. I can't just go run the car at a local track, where the conditions aren't like what they'd be at a national event or a points meet. All that teaches you is how to go slow. We're starting to get the hang of this. I really like it. It's hard core, but I'm hard core in everything I do. When I decide I'm going to do something, I always jump in with both feet."
|< Prev||Next >|