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Atlanta's own 'Sneaky Pete' Robinson.
In Memory of 'Sneaky' Pete Robinson, 1934-1971
In 1961, a virtual unknown came out of nowhere to sweep the biggest race of the year, the NHRA U.S. Nationals, earning him the nickname 'Sneaky Pete'. A native of Atlanta, Georgia, Lew Russell Robinson was born in 1934. He received formal training in mechanical engineering from Georgia Tech, and translated his engineering expertise into many technical innovations and wins. Although his first major win was at the 1961 Nationals, he had already raced for many years in a Buick-powered Ford gasser.
Pete's engineering approach to drag racing often put him at the head of the pack. His fanaticism for light weight is well known. Pete manufactured magnesium blowers, Chevy center sections, steering gear housings, and his own scattershields and light weight front dragster wheels. He used true airfoils on the front of his car when many competitors were using a flat plate for down force. He experimented with a jack starting setup to drop his already spinning tires down onto the pavement for better stability and less clutch wear.
Another interesting experiment that Pete tried was the so-called vacuum cleaner. This device, invented by an aircraft engineer named Richard Boyles, pulled air from underneath the car using the supercharger, sucking the car down to the pavement for increased traction. He later tried an air management system placed beneath the engine. Again, this was a device to form a low pressure area beneath the car, sucking it down for increased traction, much like the air tunnels under recent road racing cars. Pete also apparently invented the remote starter, now mandated for use in all professional fuel categories. Pete was always trying something.
Pete served as Technical editor of Drag Racing magazine for many years in the mid-60s. He also tried his hand at drag strip ownership and promotion, becoming a partner in the dragstrip located in Cumming, Ga and joining Atlanta Speed Shop's Julius Hughes to promote the first Atlanta $10,000 Drag Race in 1964.
Pete lost his life in a racing accident at the 1971 NHRA Winternationals. He was inducted into the NHRA Southeast Division Hall of Fame in its first year (1983) and the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame in its second year (1992). Clearly Pete was a competitor respected by his peers. He was arguably Georgia's most famous drag racer.
© 2003 Marvin T. Smith
Rest In Peace, Sneaky Pete, and thanks for all the memories.