Todd Robertson to Tackle Top Alcohol Funny Car at Mickey Mart Rewards Cavalcade of Stars Presented by Budweiser
- Friday 18 April, 2014
A ’68 Dodge Charger is what held Todd Robertson’s attention as a high school student, and after cruising it on the street, he took it to the strip, where he laid down a series of twelves, elevens and then tens.
Ready to go faster, he traded it for an eight-second ’80 Plymouth Arrow chassis car, and ready to amp it up even further, he moved to a ‘94 Dodge Avenger packed with a 591 cubic-inch engine that helped deliver him to 7.20s and IHRA Top Sportsman competition. From there, he climbed into an ’02 Chevrolet Cavalier powered by an 820 cubic-inch engine that frequented 6.80s, also in IHRA Top Sportsman competition.
After finding success in bracket-racing, he decided to turn to heads-up racing, and did so with his next car, an ’06 Chevrolet Cobalt Pro Mod motivated by a blown 526 cubic-inch Hemi, and promptly found himself in the winner’s circle in Summit Motorsports Park’s former Door Wars and Milan Dragway’s Run What Ya Brung classes and earned a championship in ’10 in the latter series after laying down a best of 3.93.
After running that car from ’08 through ’11, he decided to climb into the car we see him go down track in these days, an orange and blue Chevrolet Monte Carlo body atop a Brad Hadman chassis.
“I’ve had Eaton and Aeroquip as sponsors for a long time, and by the end of ’10, we had done well at Norwalk and at Milan, and Eaton wanted us to try NHRA with a Top Alcohol Funny Car,” said Robertson, who owns Michigan-based Pro Power Motorsports, a shop specializing in engines and chassis work for Mopars. “I had never touched one, but thought it sounded like a good idea, so in ’11, we switched the engine combination in the Cobalt to the type of screw-blowers they run in Funny Cars and continued to run it that year to get our feet wet before moving to the Monte Carlo.”
The following year, ’12, Robertson and his crew, including his wife, Lynne, his son, Grant, plus Dennis Kolomyjec, Rocco Wilson, Ed Youness and Jeff Sawruk, debuted the methanol-gulping Funny Car and spent the season tuning its engine and chassis.
“We had taken the engine, the automatic Lencodrive transmission and the Coan converter from the Cobalt and put them into the Monte Carlo, with a PSI D-Rotor blower and NRE heads,” said Robertson. “There are maybe three Alcohol Funny Cars in the world that have torque converter-driven automatic transmissions, but those are the parts we had and those are the parts we knew.”
Because Robertson builds and maintains his own engine and tunes his own chassis, which features Aeroquip hose and fittings for fuel and brake lines, it was, as he put it, a bit of a learning curve to go from racing a car that clocks 200 mph in the eighth-mile to testing a car that clocks 260 mph in the quarter-mile.
“We didn’t hire a professional crew chief to teach us the ropes because we thought it would be easier, but it’s a completely different arena than we were in before and it has taken us a couple of years to get a handle on the 3,000 horsepower combination mostly because the Cobalt has shocks and struts and the Monte Carlo has a solid suspension,” said Robertson. “You really have to respect what's going on in a Funny Car because the acceleration is incredible, and the faster they go, the less straight they go, which means you have to get used to the back of the car sliding and stay with it.”
He referred to ’12 as a season of testing, though he did attend three national events and four divisional events, and he made solid progress by the end of ’13 by running a 5.64 at 256 mph at the 59th Annual Chevrolet Performance NHRA US Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indiana and qualifying eighth.
“We really turned the corner at that point, and recently, we took our engine to Darren Mayer Performance Engineering, where it made 3,000 horsepower on the dyno after the first pull, and then after he tuned the alcohol mechanical injection, it made 3,200 horsepower,” said Robertson, who appears confident and composed regardless of the task before him. “I’ve got my fifty passes under my belt, which is about what it takes to be comfortable in a car like this, and I’m more than ready for the season.”
Robertson plans to take part in several NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series events in ’13, including the 8th Annual Mickey Mart Rewards Cavalcade of Stars presented by Budweiser, May 16-18, at Summit Motorsports Park.
By Mary Lendzion
Photos courtesy of Todd Robertson