Lew Russell Robinson was known as “Pete” to all, captured here at the 1962 NHRA Winternationals. The Atlanta native attended Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) as an engineering major. Highly intelligent and inquisitive, he applied engineering disciplines to acceleration motorsports.

‘Sneaky Pete’ Robinson, Part 3

Drag Racing’s Master Innovator

Part 1: http://www.dragracingonline.com/features/2014/xvi_11-robinson-1.html
Part 2: http://www.dragracingonline.com/features/2014/xvi_11-robinson2-1.html

No sooner had the gates at Indianapolis Raceway Park closed on the 1961 Nationals than the drag racing world began buzzing. The ETs and speeds recorded at the brand new IRP track were exceptional, a trend that would continue the next 50+ years. But an even greater stirring was underway. 

Somehow, an unknown team from the Deep South had slipped in and like Confederate raiders, had their way with the biggest names in the sport. The nation’s fastest AA/Dragsters, and in particular those from California, had been humbled. They were also left hoping the invading Atlanta vandals would return to their prior obscurity. Pete Robinson and Bill Word had other ideas. Pete and Bill’s Indy triumph caused the entire sport to reflect and it was time to revise all previous theories.

One thing was certain, winning The Nationals had turned an important page for the Atlanta team. No longer would they be regarded as “nobody”, and would unload at any track as an odds-on favorite to win. Life for the two hobby racers was rapidly gaining speed.

After their stunning upset of the ‘61 Nationals, Pete and Bill decided they thoroughly enjoyed slipping into the hen house to steal the chickens. During the long tow back to Atlanta, they plotted how to show the drag racing world that they were far more than a one-hit-wonder. Both thought there remained untapped potential in their existing combination. The most logical path to added success seemed to refine it further with increased power and reduced weight.

Back at home, Pete and Bill returned to their normal daytime activities. For Pete, winning the Nationals proved to be very good for business. The phone at Pete’s Engineering rang steadily with orders for blower drive kits, not just for Chevys but other engines as well.

Bill Word’s clients had not heard of his Indy victory, nor would have they cared. Word returned to a backlog of furniture restorations plus the responsibilities of managing a growing antique sales business. Early American and French provincial pieces were a lengthy stretch from bearing clearances and valve lashes, but Word’s reputation and skills were widely sought after.

Robinson and Word’s big win at Indy was also gaining speed within the drag racing parts industry. Racers were calling the same suppliers Pete and Bill had chosen, requesting the same parts the Atlanta duo used. There was a new trend that mirrored the Nationals winners. Heavy racecars with dual engines and tire-melting horsepower were suddenly old school. Light and simple won Indy, and racers across the nation were causing parts makers to respond.

Pete and Bill began by making their already lightweight car even lighter, to meet what they knew would be a challenge from all the top racers in the country.

November came and area tracks were closing. In early November Ernie Schorb, President of the South Florida Timing Association and promoter of the drag races in Miami called. SFTA was hosting the annual mid-November, Florida State Championships at Miami’s Masters Field. Pete and Bill were asked to bring their Nationals winner, for a fee, and compete in the event.

They agreed, but just before leaving for Miami a new development surfaced. A buyer for their Type I Dragmaster had surfaced. The sale was agreed upon but not before they called Dragmaster, in California. For 1962 Robinson & Word would be running a new chassis.