Obituary of Robert "Robby" Williams
Rob “Robby” Williams, age 76, died at home 27 July 2023, due to complications of Parkinson’s Disease. Rob was born to Alvin and Shirley (Martin) Williams and grew up on a farm in Keenesburg, Colorado. When Rob was 12, his father was killed in a crash of his crop-duster airplane, and the two most influential men in his life became Rob’s grandfather Ira Martin, and later his step-father Johnny Nance. At age 14, he purchased a Harley Davidson Super 10 motorcycle and later a Harley Sportster that became his first drag racing vehicle.
Rob graduated from Weld Central High School in 1965, and was hired by IBM as a machinist. He also worked part-time at Seyfer Engineering in Arvada, and the extra money in his pocket meant money for racing. He ordered a 1966 Dodge Coronet 426 Street Hemi he saw advertised in a magazine, but when it wasn’t fast enough, he bought a dragster chassis from Dan Widener in Colorado Springs and dropped in the 426 Hemi to run first as an A-fuel dragster, then with a blower from “Doc” Shaddock’s old car, as an AA-top fuel dragster. Racing with the support of his younger brother Rex and high school friends Kenny Bollers, Melvin Steckel and Duane Koons, Rob had enough success to order a brand-new chassis from builder Mark Williams.
Rob raced Colorado tracks like Continental Divide Raceway, Mountain View, Thunder Road and Century 21, and regionally at tracks from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Liberal, Kansas. He was winning events and setting track records, and doing well enough to be invited to the NHRA World Finals at Amarillo. By 1972, he was looking at top-fuel funny cars because he figured, that’s where the money was.
Rob purchased a Don Hardy Barracuda and had it beautifully painted by Ron Avers as the Williams Brothers funny car. The ‘Cuda became a fixture at match races and points events, and took Rob back to the NHRA World Finals. In 1974, he replaced it with Ed Bowen’s Vega, and put his name alone on the side.
It was getting harder to keep a crew together, and to stay in racing Rob found himself driving for other car owners or working as part of the crew on someone else’s car. One of the men he crewed for was Roger Guzman, who had become legendary in the region for his series of funny cars named “Assassination.” When Ron Kershal asked Roger how to make his Monza “Super Rat” funny car more successful, Roger’s recommendations were to replace the Chevy engine with a Dodge, and to bring on Rob Williams as the driver. By mid-season 1977, the “Super Rat/Assassination” had clinched the Division 5 championship and acquired enough
points to finish fifth in the country, beating out such notables as Dale Pulde, Gary Burgin, Raymond Beadle, Tom McEwan, Trippe Shumake and Jim Dunn.
For the next season, Guzman unveiled the first of the series of beautiful Dodge cars that would burn themselves into the memories of race fans from Indianapolis to Pomona. With Rob at the wheel, Assassination became nearly unstoppable in NHRA’s Division 5. Young men such as Randy Wertz, Steve McClean, Ron Roybal, Alex Vigil, and Bobby Etter volunteered their time to be the crew, and Rob and Roger trailered the car to tracks across the country, driving back to Denver in time for Rob to be at work at IBM on Monday.
In the following years, the duo won four more NHRA Division 5 championships, and in 1980, ranked ninth in the country. The Assassination team of Guzman and Williams became known as spoilers as they went up against the likes of Bernstein, Prudhomme, McEwan, Force and Beadle. In 1981, Rob drove to a new national funny car record of 247.94mph, and no one who saw the 1980 Mile High Nationals final run, when Raymond Beadle in the Blue Max took low ET of the meet of 6.19 seconds at 234 mph to beat Williams’ 6.21-233.76 mph, has ever forgotten it. Rob, Roger and Assassination had become such favorites, the crowd actually booed Beadle for two minutes after his win.
There were hard times, too, of course. Blown engines, fires and crashes cost money. It was hard to compete against well-financed teams with multiple engines and bodies who could have cars shipped to every event. After a devastating crash near the end of 1983, Guzman and Rob parted ways.
Rob’s commitment to racing was too great to simply let it go, and he continued to compete in snow-mobiles and go-karts. He was active in the IKAC for many years, and worked with Mike Sandberg of Valley Kart Engineering, where he designed and machined parts, built engines and put together winning karting packages for clients. For ten years he worked at Bandimere Speedway, where his innovative engineering led to inventions as diverse as the now internationally used machine that applies rubber to the track, to a CO2 powered canon that could propel t-shirts to the top rows of the grandstands. He designed and established a new karting track at Bandimere that is still in use today. Rob was also active in the inauguration of Junior Dragster Racing in Colorado, building engines and mentoring young drivers.
Rob’s final racing venue was the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, and this time the vehicles were motorcycles. Rob himself rode at more than 175 mph, and he built motorcycles that took multiple national and international land speed records, all of them running on nitro methane. With the help of his friend Randy Miller and his wife, fellow rider and record-holder Julianna, Rob headed team Big Bad Nitro Daddy.
For his outstanding career in drag racing, Rob was named to the NHRA Division 5 Hall of Fame, and in 2018, he was inducted into the Colorado Motorsports Hall of Fame.
Rob is survived by his brother Rex Williams, former wives Judy Burke Williams and Lori Anderson, daughter Brenda (Gary) Granger, grandsons Josh, Cobi and Adam Granger, and his beloved wife Julianna Williams and her children, Piper Wallingford and Nigel Wallingford. A time and place for services have not yet been established.