By Anthony Caruso III | Publisher
Todd Skelton got the itch of racing at a young age. It all started for the new Street Outlaws New Orleans racer when he bought a ’57 Chevy.
“I got started when I was about 18-years-old,” he said. “We started racing around home locally, like all other kids did, and I guess it was about 1995 when I bought an old pick up from an old boss of mine. I started bracket racing it. Then, we stepped things up and went faster with better equipment then. I kind of got away from the street actually. But then, I got back into it every once in a while.
“But now with the kind of caliber cars were running, I would have never imaged that we would have been putting this much horsepower on the street. Things have changed. It seems like everyone is putting full blown street cars to full-blown pro mods on the street now.”
On the second season of Street Outlaws New Orleans, which had its season finale on Monday night, Skelton appeared on the show with The Predator.
“We have been running that car for two-years now. We bought it to be a full blown track car, but we never imaged putting it on the street. We were running it and Mike Murillo filmed a show called, ‘House of Grudge.’ We were one of the cars that raced there in Mississippi and we won both of our races there. And Bobby Ducote came to me that night — and he previously been talking to me about putting the car on the street — I did not want to do it. I didn’t think I could handle the car on the street.
“Well, of course, when you win two races on TV, you’re feeling kind of cocky. I agreed to put it on the street. We then took it to the famous Pad, as they call it, in New Orleans two weeks later, and tried to slip in there with nobody knowing to face our good friend Ryan Taggart, the driver of Swamp Thing. However, it got leaked out on Facebook. What was supposed to be a few people there turned into about 7,000 people there? We won that race against Taggart. He blew the tires off of it, so it wasn’t a clean pass. We blasted down through there, just like it did at the track. That got us feeling like we could handle it. Right off the bat, it made an A-to-B pass at a 160 mph. That’s what got it started with this car. We then started to do No Prep and Street Racing, which has led to bigger and better things.”
Bought by The Small Block Militia team as it was known before becoming Team Predator, the plan was never for him to race it on the street. They just had plans for the car to be a track car after purchasing it. His partner puts a lot of money into the operation.
“We never did,” he said. “We were actually going to do some bracket races with it — just fast bracket racing. It turned out to be a faster car then we thought it was. So, we then started doing heads-up racing at local tracks and running Super Chevy shows — and it was in between classes really. The car has a small block, that’s what it’s known for, yet it has the smallest motor that we’re running against at 400 cubic inches. It has a big blower, so it gives the car a bigger and meaner attitude. We have gotten stuck running against 500 cubic inch pro mods. We can get ourselves through a few rounds, but it’s hard to find a heads up class, where the car fits. Everyone is scared of a blower and they don’t consider it’s only a 400 cubic inch motor and it’s hard to fit in a class.
“The Street racing and the No Prep racing fits the best for us. There are not that many rules. The No Prep they have weight limits, so since it’s a small block, we get to weigh less than the people, who we are racing against. The weight break helps us out a lot.”
With the constant changes of moving from the street and the tracks, most drivers have to change combinations. However, according to Skelton, they do not have to change anything.
“To be plain and honest with you, everyone who thinks we’re lying to them, everyone tells us they see this, that and the other … There’s a whole lot of changes they do to their cars, we literally have to change nothing,” he said. “We went down to The Pad and got our name — we’ve had the same tune-up in the car as we have had at the track. We don’t run a looser converter. We have a different brand of tires than everyone else. Everyone seems to like the Mickey Thompson’s on the street, because they hold up better. They work great on the street, but, like I said, we run track also, so we’re liable to be Street racing one night and at a full-blown track the next night.
“We just couldn’t get a handle on the Mickey Thompson tires to run on a prepped track. I had tire shake so BAD, it busted the fire bottles lose. It busted the Master switch in the car and cracked the body of the car from one end to the other. The violent tire shake knocked the tire tubes out of the car. It pretty much rattled me. I hit my head on both sides of the cage. We have since gone back to the Hoosier tires. They do not last near as long, because they have soft sides, but they don’t destroy the car either. Our set up we run — we did go back and change the weight — we added some more weight in the back of the car. In saying that, we went 1.5 more than what we normally run more in rear weight, so it’s not a whole lot. We do not change anything from the track to the street, like most other cars do.”
Skelton has been on the original Street Outlaws featuring the Oklahoma City crew. He was also on the Street Outlaws New Orleans show, as well.
“After we got on American Outlaws Live, people got to notice us on there,” he said. “It was a 30-car invite in the entire U.S. And they had a race your way in on a Friday night. The winner and the runner-up got to advance to make it to a 32-car field. Well, after that and people seeing us on the show, I’ve gotten tons of messages and phone calls that want us to make appearances at different tracks. It’s definitely helped out, because it has gotten our names out there. We’ve had a few companies that have called to come on board and sponsor us. It would also do some advertising for them at the same time. That one show has helped us out drastically.”
While the show has helped his racing operation, it has also hampered his main job. Skelton also owns his own business, as the owner/operator of Todd’s Transport.
“The way that it really hurts is that I’m away from home a lot,” Skelton said. “I normally would work five-or-six days a week. While sometimes, it would turn into three-days-a-week, because I have to get the car ready and I’m very blessed to have the crew that I’ve got. They pretty much do all the work on the car for me, but whenever I have to take off of work for traveling, that kills my business, because I own my own business. If I’m working on the car or racing, that makes it hurt at home. I haven’t gotten paid to race other than our winnings. Everyone thinks you’re getting rich, because you were on the show. Well, I didn’t get one penny, except for … you know … I’m not going to say who, but the big names. I know they got paid to go out there. If you take the little racers, like me, we didn’t get anything to go to American Outlaws Live. That whole weekend, I spent about $2,000 to get us out there: hotel rooms, fuel, etc. … you got to love this sport, because you’re not going to get rich doing it.
“The thing they didn’t show on the TV show, I know it’s hard to put two days worth of racing into an hour, a lot of people we know, they understand what happened. In reality, we hurt the motor in testing, as we collapsed seven ring lands and we ended up being down two cylinders. On top of that, we were running a screw blower and we noticed at the time, it wasn’t building enough boost. It was making a heck of a racket; we tried to switch cars. I got it OK with a friend of ours, who was going to allow us to drive one of his cars. Some of the racers did not like it, because the car was probably the fastest one there. I could understand it. It’s a stupid fast car that runs 3.90s, but they wouldn’t let me switch cars. I could understand that. I would say on a prepped track, it’s as fast as James Finney’s [the American Outlaws Live winner] I think. On a No Prep track, if I had gotten it down the track, it would be really tight, but the car I was going to drive, I know it’s been a 3.70 on a No Prep track.”
Despite the car being injured, he still decided to drive The Predator at the event.
“It’s a stupid fast car and I don’t blame the racers for not wanting to race against the car for $75,000,” he said. “We done traveled eight hours to get in the show and we were going to run the car, so we were going to go for it! We went a couple of rounds with the car. A good friend of ours, up in Ohio, Disco Dean [Stinky Pinky Racing], he beat us by probably one foot. I got him off of the line, but then he caught back up to me. Down two cylinders, it wouldn’t pull on the other end, so he caught me despite it being a close race. Still, it got our car out there and we had fun. The phone calls started coming in the very next week. That one show helped us out a lot.”