Robbins Rekindles Love for SLMs Thanks to Family, Looks for Win in Summer Sizzler 75admin
Robbins Rekindles Love for SLMs Thanks to Family, Looks for Win in Summer Sizzler 75 at 5 Flags on Friday
By Chuck Corder
Adulthood hits a peak when you start a family.
Your perspective changes. Your demeanor, too. The little things that once gnawed at you suddenly aren’t as bothersome as they once were. What matters most are your better halves and children, both of whom shower you with unconditional levels of love and support.
At 28, Hunter Robbins appreciates life’s current blessings. A past Snowflake 100 champion and former race engineer at Kyle Busch Motorsports, Robbins married 2010 Snowball Derby champion Johanna Robbins (formerly Long) in 2015. The seemingly always photogenic couple have plenty of reasons to smile thanks to three-year-old daughter Rory’s infectious and abundant joy.
“I’m having fun again,” Robbins admitted. “It definitely seems that less things bother me. Some people have a bad weekend at the track, and it carries on with ’em for the next week. These days, if I have a bad night, I’m able to leave it at the track and enjoy time with family.”
Robbins is also grateful to be back in the seat, driving for Ronnie Sanders and his legendary No. 18 Super Late Model. After stepping away from driving five years ago and moving to North Carolina to work for KBM, the Montgomery, Ala., native reunited with Sanders last September.
The pair will be back in action Friday at Five Flags Speedway for the Summer Sizzler as the Deep South Crane Rental Blizzard Series continues its 2020 season with a couple of twists. Eschewing the typical 100-plus lapper, the Super Late Models will battle in an all-out 75-lap sprint. And, instead of qualifying, the field will be set with a series of four 10-lap heat races with drivers being drawn blindly into starting lineups for those heat races.
“To me, the weekend starts with the draw,” Robbins said. “Hopefully we get a good draw and the night gets better from there. I came out and watched it last year. The heat races really added some excitement and made for a great race. We just want a shot to win and stay consistent.”
The heat races hold more significance than strictly positioning for the 75-lap main event. If the eventual winner finishes in the top-four of their heat race, respectfully, they’ll walk away with an additional $5,000 courtesy of James Finch’s Phoenix Construction.
The Faith Chapel Outlaws (35 laps) and Lloyd’s Glass Pure Stocks (20) will share the famed half-mile asphalt oval with the SLMs. Gates open at 5 p.m. Friday with heat races set to begin at 8. Admission is as follows: $20 for adults; $17 for seniors, military, and students (ages 12-17); and free for children (ages 11-and-under).
Despite the format changes, Robbins doesn’t foresee he and Sanders altering their game plan too much.
“I don’t know exactly what to expect from the heat race and putting a heat cycle on the tires,” he admitted. “But I think the last 10 laps will be just as tough as it would be if it was a 100- or 150-lap race.”
At the Rowdy Twin 100s in June – a Blizzard Series doubleheader weekend – Robbins was runner-up to Stephen Nassein the Friday night opener but placed 11th on Night 2.
He currently sits fifth in Blizzard Series points and sixth in the Southern Super Series standings following a frustrating finish in the Rumble by the River at Montgomery Motor Speedway earlier this month.
“There’s no opportunity to have a bad race,” Robbins said. “We had a good run in Montgomery where we were leading with about 25 laps to go, but then something broke in the rear end.
“Montgomery was definitely a heartbreaker. But when it’s all said and done, there’s nothing to hang my head about. I’m at a different point in my life. I want to go out there and have fun by being competitive.”
A graduate of Auburn University’s mechanical engineering program, Robbins landed a spot with KBM in 2015 through his connections in the short-track world. While there, KBM won three NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series championships.
“A lot of it was making the right decision at the right time,” Robbins said, “and not being afraid to pick up and move to a better situation and to better my life. It took me outta the seat awhile, but the amount of information I learned on the crew side was invaluable. I definitely needed the experience.”
When he returned last year, he noticed that not only the quality of equipment had changed but the age in the average driver had changed dramatically from his last race in 2015.
“There are a lot more younger drivers doing it now whereas there were just a handful, and I was one of them when I started,” Robbins said. “You didn’t have young people starting off in the best equipment. Now, kids move from a Legends car and hop in the best cars out there. The pace of race has picked up because of it. They drive hard and try to run fast the whole race.”
Robbins had to recalibrate his style to avoid getting sucked into the tempo the young hotshoes set and foolishly thinking five years away wasn’t going to affect his learning curve as he got reacclimated to Sanders’ SLM and short-track racing.
“I put pressure on myself initially because I was thinking I could jump back in and be competitive immediately,” he said. “Once I got a good race under my belt, the self-confidence returned, and I could start to fight for wins again. It has taken a ton of pressure off me and has made it more enjoyable.”