Rookie Season Diary

By Rob Mansfield
Photos by Billy Carroll and
Steve Gruenwald
5/7/04 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.

Our 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.

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