Alec Robbins entered the 2016 Midwest Drift Union championship as a total newcomer to the series in a platform nobody else had competed with in the seven years the series has existed. No one was quite sure what to make of the LS-swapped Hardbody truck, but after round one, everyone knew the new kid from Minnesota was a hard-charger on track and a candidate for multiple podium finishes. We take a look back at his inaugural year with us at MDU to show what it took to climb to the top and be crowned the 2016 MDU champion.
“I’ve had the truck since high school,” Robbins said during round one at Gateway. “My dad was the original owner of it and I’ve just been playing with it since high school. I got into drifting three or four years ago and started to really modify it for that and it slowly turned into this.”
The Hardbody sports an LS2 with an LS9 cam putting down 403WHP through a T56 and Dana 44 rear end with a full spool and dual caliper setup. Suspension duties are handled by QA1 coilovers up front while the stock leaf springs remain in back.
“It’s the only thing I’ve ever really drifted,” Robbins said. “It’s what I’ve had and it’s what I’ve used. It’s crossed my mind (to go to an S-chassis) but it’s fun to do this and be different.”
Robbins started to quickly climb through the top sixteen bracket, catching what some could have considered a break when 2015 MDU champion Dirk Stratton entered too fast behind the truck into the sweeper at Gateway, causing the Corvette to spin off track and into the tire wall.
Robbins wouldn’t quite reach the podium here, as Steven Fishel knocked him out in final four. Still, everyone now knew the truck wasn’t just an attention-getter, but posed a real threat to some of the “regulars.”
A fourth place finish was a good way to start the year, but things got even better at round two in Indianapolis, where Robbins grabbed the number three qualifying spot.
“It was a lot of fun,” Robbins had said. “It was a lot harder track than I thought it’d be coming into this. The pictures and videos don’t do it justice. It’s tough coming off that bank, that’s really the hardest part.”
Robbins sent Dan Perlenfein home in top sixteen, drawing Shane Whalley’s GTO in top eight, with the Goat bowing out due to mechanical issues. He went on to face Noah Michaels, another newcomer who would actually go on to win the event, in the final four.
Robbins would have battled Mike Feiock for third, but ultimately took a by run as Feiock’s RX-8 was out to mechanical gremlins, thereby gifting Robbins the bronze and his first MDU podium. That podium finish set him only six points behind then points leader Feiock, putting Robbins in serious contention for a podium finish at the year’s end.
With such a narrow gap in the points heading into round three at Kil-Kare in Ohio, it was time to really pour it on in an effort to clench one of the three Pro 2 licenses.
Robbins began yet another climb to the podium by winning his top sixteen battle against Drew Meyer.
And like a repeat of round two, found himself against Shane Whalley in top eight, ultimately heading on to the final four.
This time, Robbins wouldn’t be battling for third, as he knocked out the 350Z of Hooman Rahimi to land his first spot in the finals.
The battle for first would be no easy task against MDU O.G. Feiock, but Robbins, with a malfunctioning e-brake, edged out the RX-8 to take himself and the truck to his first win.
“It feels awesome,” Robbins said afterward. “Those last couple sets of runs were amazing, but Hooman and Feiock had been killing it all day, they’re so consistent and fun to drive with.”
The victory over Feiock tied the two in points going into the fourth round in Virginia, where they were only a handful of drivers who made the trek to the East Coast.
With the championship on the line and the season at its end, there was no holding back.
An all new track meant no driver had an unfair advantage, helping to level the playing field. The lack of drivers meant MDU only ran a top eight, with Robbins getting a free pass into the final four with yet more mechanical issues plaguing his opponent Shane Whalley.
Robbins’ first real battle of the day came against his fellow Rookie Of The Year contender Geoff Donati, the latter of which would ultimately wind up in third.
The win over Donati placed Robbins in the finals against Riley Sexsmith, an MDU semi-regular who made the last round his first event with us this season. Neither driver had even met prior to the last round, but had known each other through Hardbody forums for years, with Sexsmith himself having owned one of the Nissan trucks.
Sexsmith wound up with the win, with Robbins placing second, and now having placed 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th this year. This gave him a five point lead over Feiock, locking in the 2016 championship and his 2017 Pro 2 license.
“We came into round one with hopes to qualify,” Robbins said. “We had never driven with really any of these guys, but coming in with a pick-up, we did better than we ever expected to do. We’re hopeful for Pro 2, and we have no solid set in stone plan. We’ll definitely try, depending on what kind of help we get and what kind of car we end up going with. There’s a lot of ‘if’s.’ If we don’t have a Pro 2 car, we’ll be back here for sure.”