Much has come and gone in the sport of drag racing — racers, organizations, categories, even entire genres of competition, such as the very radial-tire category he competes in — in the 22 years since Bobby Dodrill first began toiling on his four-wheel-drive 1976 GMC pickup truck. Dodrill, who came to drag racing with a highly-accomplished resume in mud drag racing, spent 11 years building his one-off machine, originally designed to compete in the then-wildly popular Outlaw 10.5 eliminator.
Dodrill faced harsh criticism for his decision to build, not only a full-size pickup, but one with four drive wheels — he was told it would never work, and those words have only continued over the last decade. Dodrill’s “Miss Misery” GMC made its debut at Orangeburg, South Carolina in 2009 with the ORSCA series, and Dodrill, as expected, faced a long and tenuous battle to tame a combination for which no groundwork had ever been laid and to which no one could be called for data or advice.
Over the first six months, he faced severe handling issues at speed — that in addition to the inherent, nightmarish challenges of running a blown alcohol engine combination in four-wheel drive. As he says, “that part of the process was the most dangerous point…that’s when the truck was trying to kill me on every pass.”
Miss Misery was crashed three times — once in devastating fashion, setting Dodrill back more than four years while he made repairs on his blue-collar budget. Those crashes, he explains, were in each case a result of something failing that put the truck in two-wheel-drive, adding that it is a “virtual certainty” that it will crash if it loses either its front or rear drive. In recent seasons, the truck was converted to 315 drag radials and began competing in Radial versus The World. Relying on the knowledge of some of the sport’s brightest minds, Dodrill began charting his path from the mid 4-second zone — plenty impressive in its own right — toward his ultimate goal of a 3-second timeslip.
At DuckX Productions’ Magic 8 at Orlando Speed World Dragway in March, what Dodrill was told for so long was an impossibility became reality and affirmed two decades of tireless dedication as he lit the scoreboards with a 3.984-second elapsed time at 183.54 mph.
“I’m a grown man, I’m a father of six children, and I just turned 51 years old. When I went through the traps and I saw that 3.98 pop up, and I got the truck stopped, I didn’t even have the strength to undo the belts. I literally sat in the seat and had tears rolling down my face,” Dodrill says. “I was just overwhelmed with emotion. It was such a long battle, so many years of problems and issues. We had those three bad wrecks, and just to be able to have it all come together and set that world record in that capacity at a Donald Long event was incredible. The only thing I could compare it to was being there when my first daughter was born. It was just that emotional for me, because I have invested literally my entire life into this truck, and to see it be successful at doing what I always believed it could do, and had a million people telling me it could not do, and then it did it. And now it has repeated that many times over…man, it’s really a miracle come true for me. I’m very, very proud of it.”
“We’ve taken quite the beating over the years to get this thing to this point,” Dodrill continues. “Probably 95-percent of the human population said it was impossible, that it couldn’t be done. So to get it to this point is just a huge reflection of the absolutely brilliant people that have helped me do it. Craig Liberty never, ever gave up on me. Steve Graves at QuickDrive is who brought us from 4.30s to 3.90s, if you want to know the truth. Roger Olander who used to own PSI Supercharger, he’s responsible for the power this thing makes. And Joey Martin has been helping us do some tuning. And the list goes on and on….there are a lot of people behind this who are way smarter than I am, who have put their hat into the ring to make all of this happen. And it’s really all come together for us this year.”
Dodrill’s feat of engineering is motivated by a wedge-style 4.840-inch bore-space Keith Black solid aluminum, Top alcohol-style engine block and cylinder head. The heads are solid aluminum custom one-off symmetricals from Chris Howe with unique lifter guide and bores and valve arrangement. The supercharger is likewise a one-of-a-kind PSI C-rotor unit handbill and massaged for his combination — Dodrill calls it “a bad b*tch.” The combination is backed by a five-speed Extreme Pro Mod Liberty transmission, paired with an all-billet QuickDrive unit
At last weekend’s Sweet 16 3.0 at South Georgia Motorsports Park, Dodrill set a new personal best — and an all-wheel-drive record, for those keeping score — with a 3.96, putting him 18th-quick among the 31 fastest Radial versus The World vehicles in the country.
Dodrill has been working tirelessly, both on himself and the pickup, to shed weight; he’s lost 13-pounds himself, and an array of titanium and other lightweight parts have helped slim the mighty GMC down by 65-pounds.
“In its current configuration we think we’re going to be able to run 3.80s this weekend at No Mercy. We’re about to switch to a lockup converter, which we think will put us into the 3.70 zone.”
“Our confidence is through the roof with it now. We’re becoming more confident in what kind of number it should go. All those years, we were just trying to get to the finish line without me having to take a ride in a helicopter. Now, we feel that if we do this, it should go that. We’re still chasing huge slip numbers in the converters, but it’s running the numbers we expect it to run. That’s a whole new confidence, and out makes it so much more fun and interesting, because when we go up there, it’s going straight down the track and we aren’t having issues.”