Fresh Off Milestone PLM Win, Robbins Eyes SLM Glory for Pepperjack Kennels Twin Blizzards
By Chuck Corder for 5flagsspeedway.com
It doesn’t feel that long ago when Hunter Robbins announced his presence at Five Flags Speedway. Robbins, 14-years-old at the time, stunned the Late Model world by winning the 2005 running of the Snowflake 100, the most prestigious Pro Late Model race in the sport and the little brother to the Snowball Derby. Robbins, now 30, scored another huge PLM victory last month at Montgomery Motor Speedway when he pulled off the upset and won the Alabama 200. It was his first Late Model win of any kind in seven years. “It was really neat to go up (to Montgomery) and win a race,” he said. “It feels good that we got everything just right to win the first race out of the gate this year.”
While former Derby champion Ronnie Sanders still handles setups and keeps a careful eye on the famed, candy-red No. 18, Robbins enjoys the simplistic, grassroots approach he and Sanders share. Instead of hired hands and unfamiliar faces turning wrenches, Robbins surrounds himself with family and former short-track patriots who want to help their friend topple the big-money teams.
“This is one of the best opportunities I’ve ever had from start to finish, having all the parts and pieces,” said Robbins, who spent time in NASCAR garages several years ago working as an engineer for Kyle Busch Motorsports. “I’m definitely more grateful. But with what Ronnie’s doing and my family is doing, hopefully, we can keep making good decisions on and off the track.” Robbins aims to carry his momentum into Friday night as the Pepperjack Kennels Twin Blizzard weekend kicks off the Deep South Cranes Blizzard Series season for Super Late Models at Five Flags. Each 100-lap race pays $10,000 to win and the driver with the best average finish between the two races earns a slot for the Superstar Racing Experience (SRX) season opener in June at Pensacola’s high banks.
The Proxy Equipment Pro Trucks and Lloyd’s Glass Pure Stocks are the appetizer before the Rubber & Specialties 100 on Friday at the famed half-mile asphalt oval. The Faith Chapel Outlaws and the Dock on Pensacola Beach Sportsmen bookend the Zoom Equipment 100 on Saturday. Gates open at 3:30 p.m. Friday and 3 p.m. Saturday. Admission both days is $20 adults; $17 for seniors, military and students; and free for children ages 10-and-under. Two-day packages for adults are $35 and $30 for seniors, military and students. For more information, call the track office at 850.944.8400.
It’s no wonder Robbins is having more fun in his 17th year racing Late Models than any previous year. Everywhere he races, wife Johanna Long-Robbins and their two children—5-year-old daughter Rory and 1-year-old son Rhett—are sure to be close behind. Hunter and Johanna, the hometown product who in 2010 was the last Pensacola driver to win the Derby, have put an emphasis on instilling family values to their little ones.
“The biggest thing we wanted for (their children) was when we go to the races, we go together as a family,” Hunter Robbins said. “That’s how we each grew up doing it with our families, and we want to raise our kids that way.” Young Rhett and “Princess” Rory, as her father affectionally calls her, will be front and center come Friday as dear ol’ dad looks to build off his win in Montgomery and successful Blizzard Series runs at Five Flags a year ago. With a Derby-caliber field expected, Robbins knows his team must be on its “A” game if it wants to walk away with a chunk of that cash and a spot on the SRX starting grid come June.
“Practice is going to be really important to see if we brought the right setup,” Robbins said. “You gain confidence from practice to qualifying and then from qualifying to the race. It’ll be tough. But most every Blizzard race was that way last year.
“We’ll try and not put too much pressure, but we’re looking forward to the prize that comes with the best average finish. Someone like myself who’s worked in NASCAR, but never driven in the national spotlight, it’s pretty rewarding. We’re excited about it. But, we’ll try and not think about it too much. We’ll just do what we did last year: finish in the top-three in every Blizzard race we ran. If we do that, everything else will take care of itself.”