Rookie Season Diary
By Rob Mansfield
Photos by Billy Carroll and
has asked me to share with you the experiences
of my rookie year racing the Wilson Manifolds
IHRA Pro Stock Grand Am.
Before we get into what I'm doing now, let
me tell you a little about where I came from.
I have been involved in drag racing since I
was 15 years old and got my first car. I had
a racecar when I didn't even have a car for
transportation. When I first met my wife, I
told her I didn't have time or money for a girlfriend
because I was building a racecar. Racing has
always been a part of my life, and Pro Stock
racing has always been my dream.
I knew at an early age that I wanted a racing career and that I wanted to work with race cars, so I went to welding school and became a TIG welder. I started out working in a racing chassis shop then, in 1987 I went to work for Wilson Manifolds, the nation's leader in intake manifold development. At Wilson Manifolds, I am responsible for managing the sheet metal fabrication and welding department where we design and build custom sheet metal intake manifolds. We make these intakes for a wide variety of applications from the sport compact classes up to the highly competitive Pro classes including the NHRA Pro Stock championship-winning team of Greg Anderson and Jason Line.
One of the great things about my job is the immersion in racing. I am always
surrounded by people who understand the need
to race and who support it. Well, working for
Wilson Manifolds put me in the right place at
the right time and I was offered the chance
of a lifetime, to drive Billy Dingman's Pro
Stock Grand Am in the IHRA Sunoco Pro Stock
series. Billy is a seasoned racer who seemed
to like the idea of giving a rookie driver his
first pro ride. He has been successfully involved
in many types of racing in many different positions
from driver to team owner. When it comes to
racing, Billy knows how to get it done right.
race team consists of several members including:
Billy Dingman, Tim Takash of Takash Race Craft,
Mike Baker, Justin Elkes, Bob Birchmeier, Keith
Wilson of Wilson Manifolds, Denise Mansfield
and me. Our team got together a little late
in the pre-season. We met as a whole group for
the first time about a month before the season's
inaugural event in Texas.
The team shop is in Winter Park, Florida and I live about three hours south of there. The preseason was punctuated with many after-work drives up to Winter Park to work with the team (fortunately Justin Elkes, the clutch guy, also works at Wilson Manifolds and shares the late night drives).
We had two testing sessions at Bradenton before
going to the Amalie Oil Texas Nationals in San
Antonio and actually went to the first event
with me having had only five full passes in
the car, and two of those were licensing runs.