Drag Racing, Feature Article, Washington — August 16, 2012 at 4:47 am

Robert Woodruff (issue 102)

by

By Steve Heeb

Robert Woodruff took up racing when he was 18. He was living in Roseburg, Ore., and had a street-legal ’66 Corvette with a 427-cid motor producing 425 hp.

“I used to drive from Roseburg to Eugene to race twice a week on their Wednesday and Saturday race nights,” Robert recalls of fielding the Corvette at the now-defunct Balboa Dragstrip.

Robert later moved north to Maple Valley, Wash., and works for Kent-based Motor Oil Supply, where he once again caught the racing bug with help from a client.

“Mike Seekins was one of my customers,” Robert explains. “He’d raced all over the Northwest for 20 years. I just started going to the races with him.”

Mike was fielding a ’57 Chevy in the Pro bracket and Robert pitched in as much as possible.

“Robert came out and helped me at the races,” Mike says. “In 1994 we decided to buy a dragster as partners. I did the driving and he helped out.”

In 1997 Robert and Mike went to the TRW All-Stars race in Columbus, Ohio.

“We saw the newer cars and bigger motors they had over there,” Mike recalls. “They were just faster, better cars.”

That year, Robert and his then-

fiancée Connie bought a 235-inch wheelbase Mullis dragster that they fielded with Mike for seven years.

They later added a 2011 Worthy to the team’s fleet and Mike drove both in competition, with one in Top Comp and the other in Super Comp.

“He really needed help then,” Robert laughs. “He eventually cut way back on his racing.”

Robert traded cars with Earl Cunningham, who was looking to sell his 2002 Worthen and both Mike and Robert were racing together in Super Comp.

“Earl and I became good friends and now travel and race together,” Robert says. “At the beginning of 2009 Earl and his wife Katie and me and Connie spent over a month on the road.”

The racing road trip started in Arizona with the National and Divisional races in Phoenix followed by a Divisional race in Tuscon.

“We went back to Phoenix and left the cars for three weeks with Jim and Cheryl Morris,” Robert says of racing friends from Olympia, Wash., who also have a house in Arizona. “Then we towed to Las Vegas for the National event there. It was a fun trip. Something we always wanted to do.”

Robert races with the Pacific Northwest Super Comp Association that runs on a 8.90-second index.

“We run 11 races in the Northwest,” he says of the PNSCA schedule, which with the Division 6 events and trips to Mission bring his normal annual tally to around 25-30 events.

At the rear end of the 235-inch wheelbase, his 2002 Worthy 4-link dragster sports a 632-cid Dale Green motor tucked between the 33.5×17 Hoosiers.

“It’s a very big motor for this class,” Robert says. “It’s probably the fastest Super Comp car in the Northwest. Dale does a really good job.”

Brother-in-law Doug McLester painted the dragster.

Robert also appreciates the support and friendship of Mike and Kari Seekins; Paul and Staci Nowak, Tom and Val Manfred; and Earl and Katie Cunningham.

“They have been a very important part of our racing,” Robert acknowledges. “Earl pretty much maintains the car.”

Robert recalls the group taking part in a special two-day event at Spokane.

“We had full races on Saturday and Sunday,” he says. “Earl and me were in the finals on Saturday and had to put a new flex plate in the car on Sunday.”

The fast work paid off as Robert won both days of the double header, only the second time in club history the feat had been accomplished.

“Mike Seekins was the first do that,” Robert recalls of his friend’s landmark back-to-back victory in Medford, Ore.

Robert enjoys the challenge of Super Comp racing because the competition in that class is so close.

“Most races are won in the thousandths of a second,” he explains.

Robert credits Mike’s advice for much of his success on the dragstrip.

“Everything I learned about driving I learned from Mike,” he says.

“He’s learned a ton over the years,” Mike says of Robert’s racing progress. “Especially understanding the car mechanically and setting up the car for our 8.90 index. He’s a fast learner.”

Mike syas Robert has really improved his driving at the finish line.

“He was already good at starting,” Mike notes. “But it takes a while to learn how to finish a run.”

The lessons paid off in 2004 as Robert won a National Open and took home a Wally from Pacific Raceways en route to capturing the PNSCA title.

He would notch another PNSCA championship in 2008 while finishing in the top 10 for the Division and a third-place ranking at the All Stars event that season.

Robert followed up by winning back-to-back PNSCA titles for the 2009 and 2010 seasons.

In 2010, Robert had to rebuild the car after wrecking it during a bracket race in Las Vegas, but still earned a fourth-place ranking in the Pacific Division. He bumped that up to third for the 2011 campaign and was PNSCA runner-up.

Robert is quick to thank wife Connie for her supportive role in his racing endeavors.

“I couldn’t do it without her,” Robert beams.

“I’ve been going to the track with him for 13 years,” Connie says. “I do the tires and stats and a little bit of everything.”

She says she still gets butterflies every time he goes down the track, especially as the motors in the cars get bigger, but adds that she wouldn’t change a thing.

“He told me he spent a lot of time racing and a lot of time hunting,” she explains of his hobbies. “Those are his passions and I wouldn’t want to change that.”

Connie has plenty of her own experience behind the wheel of somewhat unusual vehicles.

She commands a 28-foot school bus and a 38-foot Thomas for the Tahoma School District, and sometimes a 40-foot bus for school sporting events.

She also has been known to haul a certain Super Comp dragster to the track on race days.

Mike says that after racing 30 years he is hauling himself to the track a bit less than before.

“I’m starting to calm it down,” Mike says of picking the events to run at his favorite Northwest venues: Mission Raceway Park, Pacific Raceways and Bremerton Raceway.

He adds that Robert, though older than most of the Super Comp drivers, still carries a youthful eagerness for racing.

“He’s still motivated,”Mike laughs.

In fact, Robert won the right to represent the Pacific Division at this year’s Jegs Allstar Championship in Chicago, Ill.

That’s pretty motivated.

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