Alec Robbins ventured to the Midwest from the Land of 10,000 Lakes to make his Midwest Drift Union debut in 2016, and in a rather unconventional way. Amidst the endless sea of Nissan S-Chassis, Robbins showed up in a Nissan Hardbody with an LS2 heart, making his the first truck to ever compete in the series.
He finished fourth at Gateway for round one, securing third in points after just one outing. Robbins would find himself on the podium in third place at round two at Lucas Oil Raceway, proving this newcomer and his truck were a force to be reckoned with.
That statement would hold especially true at round three that year at Kil-Kare Speedway, where Robbins would not only make it to the finals, but upset the inaugural MDU champion from 2010, Mike Feiock, to secure his first win of the season and tying the two for first in the points.
Robbins would once again take the Hardbody to the finals at round four at Dominion Raceway, ultimately falling to Riley Sexsmith's WRX STi. Despite the loss, Robbins won the championship in his rookie year, proving that a traditional chassis isn't a necessity if you want to win.
Robbins would enter Pro 2 in 2017, switching platforms to a Nissan 350Z as no trucks are allowed at the Formula DRIFT level. After failing to qualify in Orlando, he just made the cut in Atlanta where he qualified sixteenth. A win over Danny George was as far as he'd make it, but would finish eighth overall. Robbins wouldn't be in attendance for the third round, but would be back with a season-best fourth place finish in Texas.
The second year of Pro 2 wouldn't start out well, with Robbins failing to qualify in Atlanta, but a seventh place qualifying spot in St. Louis would lead to a third place finish, marking his first time on the podium in Pro 2. Robbins would qualify fifth in Texas, but wouldn't make it out of top sixteen. To round out the season, he'd qualify 10th in Irwindale and make it to top eight.
For 2019, Robbins would find himself the second place qualifier for the Atlanta round, though he would fall to Josh Robinson in top sixteen.
However, the third round in St. Louis would be Robbins' best yet. He qualified eighth on an all-new course, drawing Robinson for a re-match from Atlanta in top sixteen. This time Robbins would take the win, moving on to defeat Dustin Miles, Garrett Denton and Rome Charpentier and find himself on the top spot, marking the first time an MDU graduate has clenched first in a Pro 2 event.
I had caught up with Robbins over the Pro 2 Atlanta weekend to get some insights into his time in the Pro 2 series and see what advice he might have for this year's pro-am contenders.
NQ: What did you learn from your first year in Pro 2 to make you better prepared for the next year?
AR: We were a lot more prepared with the car setup for sure. We didn't really have the car setup the greatest last year I suppose, so we got a whole bunch of new partners on board and products on board that have helped a ton with a lot more seat time.
NQ: What's it like to be driving with so many of your former MDU rivals at the Pro 2 level?
AR: There's obviously a little bit of a competitive mindset, but it's obviously still fun. Every event we progress so much and it's a much higher level of competition now. It's still a blast driving with them, and because they progress so much, every time we see each other its like driving with a new person because they're that much better every time.
NQ: When you won the MDU championship in 2016, the series traveled across the Midwest. This year it's a shootout style event. What were the advantages you had with a touring series?
AR: There's definitely advantages to touring. You get to run multiple tracks against different drivers from all over the country. You get the whole logistics part of your program started out earlier. I know us being up in Minnesota, even running MDU, the closest track was like a nine hour drive. Because of that, it wasn't as large of a leap going to the Pro 2 series from the pro-am because we already had everything logistically figured out as far as times we have to take off work, having the crew and hotel. It's not as much of an eye opener because you already have that in your mind. I think you need a better program going into a series than you do a one round event where you can show up with an open trailer and a couple buddies and drive for a day. There's a lot of things you find out about your car going through a whole series that you don't necessarily get if you just go to one event.
NQ: If you could give your Pro Am self (or the new class of Pro 2 hopefuls) some advice from what you've learned, what would it be? Where should the next class of contenders focus?
AR: Reliability and consistency. You need the car to work exactly how you want it to work right when you show up. There's no second chances. You have to be on top of your game and have your car figured out. We had a really good run in pro-am. I would say just have fun and be organized. One disadvantage we had coming from pro-am to Pro 2 was having to switch chassis. If I were to run it again, I would want a chassis that would take me to the next level, not something you can run for the fun of it and then start over. Try and set your program up sponsor wise. When you're running pro-am, you want to work with those sponsors that you can continue into Pro 2 with. Start making connections right away. That's what makes it all happen is the sponsors. We didn't have any forward sight what we were going to do after pro-am. One thing I would tell myself is that a lot of these drivers have ridiculous cars and fancy rigs, but none of it matters. You're driving against them. Looks don't show how talented a driver is. You go out there and drive, have fun, and hopefully win races.