Robert Patrick's 2007 Shelby Ford GT500 IHRA Pro Stocker
There are many forms of motorsport that involve Mustangs or Mustang based creations and this magazine, in all its infinite wisdom, attempts to cover as much as it can that relates to them. When it comes to Drag Racing, the Fun Ford Weekend and National Mustang Racers Association meets are well know by the faithful, but one category that may not be entirely familiar with some of us involves the International Hot Rod Association, or more specifically the Pro Stock class within that sanctioning body. Here, Ford powered machinery is dominant and if you've been to a few of the FFW or NMRA events in recent years, or the World Ford Challenge, you might have seen more than a few IHRA drivers competing in the Pro 5.0 ranks at these events. One of them in particular made a splash at WFC 9 in his new 2007 GT500 based ride - none other than Robert Patrick. Now strapping yourself into a low six-second projectile, especially one that does the job on displacement alone is no picnic and it can be downright scary at times, even for seasoned veterans like Patrick, but pushing the limits can be both exciting and rewarding, something that Robert knows only too well.
Patrick comes from a drag racing family, having grown up around the strip and fast quarter mile thrashers, so it's fair to say he's got racing in the blood. "My dad, Eli, was a racer back in the '60s, but by the time I was born he decided to take a break and concentrate on the family and also building his business, the dealership. When I was about 10 years old, he decided to get back into racing again. I remember he bought this 1970 Mustang - a Super Stock car and went racing. I used to help him at the track. We would go as a family and everybody would do their part." A few years later, in 1987, Robert was now getting the itch to follow in dad's footsteps. "We bought a 1969 Mustang Super Stock car and we ran it in the eighth mile - it would go 6.80s - for me it was a real learning curve."
Not long after, things started cranking up a few notches when the Patricks got their hands on a former Super Stock Staff car in the late 1980s (see side bar). In 1990, the Patricks decided that it was time perhaps for young Robert to run in IHRA Sportsman, but that required a suitable machine with which to compete. "After running that '84 1/2 Mustang GT Super Stock car with a 1985 front end, dad decided that we should run in the Sportsman and Top Sportsman class. We purchased a chassis from Jerry Haas. I went to Roy Hill's drag racing school and it was a big step. We'd run off a dial-in in that class. My car was great. It was a genuine Pro Stocker chassis and it had a 500 cubic inch wedge up front and a Lenco transmission. Quite a few of the other guys I ran against were using all kinds of high tech stuff - they had state-of-the-art automatic trannies and delay boxes - I was running a four-speed, but still it was a great learning experience. I got [the car] running 7.60s in the quarter mile and went to as many IHRA meets as I could."