Huw Evans
December 1, 2006
Photos By: Francis Butler

Things were clearly progressing for Robert in the early 1990s, and with some success under their belt the Patricks decided to try their hand at IHRA Pro Stock. "It was early 1992. I had just run at the Winternationals in Top Sportsman - I was hooked so we decided to try out the Pro Stock class." That opened up a whole new avenue and required, among other things, a new engine to get down the 1320. "We had to get a Hemi motor to run Pro Stock, so we managed to get our hands on a 672 cube engine from Roy Hill. Once we had it and had the car assembled, we drove up from Virginia to Norwalk for our first full-on Pro Stock race. We didn't make qualifying that first time, so after that event we took the motor out and sent it down to builder Lee Edwards for some work. When we got it back and dropped it the car - man, things started happening. The car was definitely quicker through the gears - I started making the semis and it was hanging in there with the top three cars at IHRA meets." At that point in time, the younger Patrick was on cloud nine. "Once the car was competitive it was just amazing - there I was, running against some of my heroes like Roy Hill - I could not believe it. My dad would drive us all the way down to Gainsville, Florida to the NHRA race down there and also to the IHRA meets. It was a great time and it was cool that we did the whole Pro Stock thing as a family, dad, mom - everybody was there. It was great having all that family support."

Robert took another step forward when the Patricks decided to campaign a new ride for 1993. "We built this Thunderbird Super Coupe car - John Kasse built the motor for this one and Lee [Edwards] did a bunch of stuff on it too. It was a real challenge at first, because the car was so different, it took a while to get the hang of the clutch and all the computers." However, by the time Norwalk came around that year, things were looking up. "That was when it all came together," says Robert. "We went to the finals in Norwalk, won that race and then went to Epping and won there to. Overall that year we finished eighth in the points - it was good, especially considering that we didn't have the resources to go to each race. We were still basically a bunch of kids, working on and tuning the car, racing it when we could."

For 1994, Robert made the transition to a new, Mustang based car. "Back then, the Pro Stock chassis had to be within an inch of the wheelbase found on the stock production car, so the setup was quite different from the T-bird." Still, Patrick did a lot of testing over the off season and it paid off. "We did a lot of prep and we had a small sponsorship through Ford Quality Care via the family dealership. I was able to race the entire season and finished second overall in the points, right behind my friend Billy Huff." Robert put in another impressive season for 1995, racing neck and neck with Billy right to the end and after transitioning back to a Thunderbird based car built by Jerry Haas for '96, ended up winning two races. It was at this juncture, that Robert figured now was the time to take the plunge and commit to running in NHRA if he was going to do it.

"We tried out the NHRA beginning in 1997. I started off campaigning a Probe based car and had Sonny Leonard do my motors - eventually I went to the New Edge Mustang style. We were one of the first teams in the NHRA to run the new Mustang body." But although he had some success, running in NHRA Pro Stock was quite a challenge at times. " We had some highlights - I remember going to Las Vegas in 2000 and qualifying eighth, but it takes big money and lots of resources to compete successfully at the NHRA level and we had a hard time getting sponsorship. The funding really wasn't there to take it to the next level, so in 2003 we decided to pull out."