Rob Summers is Looking For His Place in Racing By Jim Blacroch
Summers passion is driving and there is much more to the story then meets the eye
Going to Canada to race is a challenging task, however, Rob Summers of Manchester, Connecticut, would travel a lot further to race if he had to. On this particular Friday night at Delaware Speedway near London, Ontario, Summers was off to race Howie Lane’s ISMA Supermodified that was constructed by Supermodified crafter Brian Allegresso.
Summers has been racing for years. His involvement in the sport was something he was born into, but his passion for it is something that folks just don’t see all of the time. Many people misinterpret Summers quiet approach, but first you have to get to know him.
He isn’t a guy you just jump up and say, “Man, that guy is good.” Sure, most women grow week in the knees when he walks by, but his career numbers haven’t been spectacular enough to promote his true talents. He’s never won on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour where he’s raced since 1999, he’s got one win at Riverside Park back in June of 1998 and he’s scored one ISMA victory at Stafford. His most prominent numbers come in the SK Modified division, where he’s won track championships and multiple features. He actually scored a big victory last year at All-Star Speedway in Epping, New Hampshire, against the modified troops in an open-competition show, but Summers was actually driving his SK Modified with some minor engine modifications.
Summers in his TG Racing Whelen Modified.
“Yeah, I know,” quipped Summers. “Those numbers aren’t that impressive, but I love racing. I really don’t look at the statistics too much.”
Summers does love racing. There isn’t any questioning his desire or passion to succeed in the sport and you don’t need to examine things very far to find out that Summers is probably one of the best drivers to ever have the worst timing. Some of his relationships haven’t been great with car owners and some like his relationship with Bobby Judkins at Riverside Park have just run out of time.
Now he drives for TG Racing on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour with car owners Guy Ronzoni and Bill Frasco, he pilots his own SK Modified and his ISMA Super is owned by Howie Lane.
“I don’t know,” offered Summers with a shrug. “There have been some things that have worked, some things that haven’t and some things where I just didn’t have the right timing. Right now with Howie and the Super, I’m just relaxing and having fun. I have so much fun driving these cars. They are so intense.”
Just like Summers - intense. If you were able to spend any time around the guy known affectionately as ‘Rocket Rob’, you’d understand that intensity. No matter what Summers is doing, he does it at the optimum level that he can perform at; whether that’s lifting weights, building a racecar or fishing with friends.
“If you are doing something, there is no point in doing it halfway,” stated Summers with a laugh. “It’s not like the clock is ticking; I’ve got plenty of time left to do what I want to do in racing. I’ve done a lot already, but I’d sure like to go on some tear and win a bunch of races.”
Rob Summers in his ISMA Super.
Summers isn’t a guy who is going to go out and self-promote himself, but throughout his career he has garnered the respect of several peers who are at the top level of competition. Mike Stefanik, who is a 9-time NASCAR champion, and Summers have become good friends through time.
“Robbie has what it takes, but I’ve never met anyone who has as much bad luck at the worst times as Rob,” Stefanik continued about his friend. “We spend quite a bit of time together, racing at Barnyard (a backyard track in Rhode Island, where folks go to blow off steam on weekends in junk cars). He comes to the house and we just talk about racing. He’s really into it and he gets it.”
Stefanik’s crew chief at Flamingo Motorsports, Stanley ‘Sly’ Szaban, is also a Summers advocate. Szaban occasionally helps Summers out on off weekends and sees another side that maybe most folks don’t.
“Robbie has a great understanding of the car and he is a very good fabricator,” offered Szaban. “So many people in today’s world just go and buy the things they need, body parts, what have you, but in mind a good racer can fabricate most of those things on his own and Robbie can do all of that work. He’s really into this sport and he’s definitely got the talent and drive to get things done.”
One car that Summers is awfully proud of is his SK Modified, which is a Chassis Dynamics car that he assembled himself and has driven to victory lane on many occasions. One of the biggest wins of his career came at Stafford this year when Summers won the SK portion of the Spring Sizzler. He operates his own SK Modified team on a limited budget with limited help. Often times it’s just he and a couple of his friends going to the track.
“Yeah, it can get lean from time to time when you are looking for help, because it takes such a commitment, time off, all of those things,” Summers explained and continued. “But when we do well, it’s that much more rewarding because it’s just a few of us against teams that bring everyone.”
Some folks tend to believe that Summers also has an advantage that most don’t. His Father, Bob, built Hoosier Tire East from the ground up and today Summers himself runs the business with the guidance of his Father. He understands how people view it, but is quick to explain that sometimes it might be a disadvantage to his racing. It will never be a distraction, because it’s what puts food on the table.
“Some people don’t understand that it’s a lot of work. We’ve got a weekend coming up where I would like to be racing at Stafford, but might have to be at Syracuse taking care of the tire business. There is a lot more to the equation than just pushing tires around and mounting new tires for my racecar. People probably think I get them for free, but I have to pay what everyone else pays. I always have to remember it keeps food on the table and helps provides us with the resources necessary to go racing.”
Summers certainly isn’t afraid to work and he’s always thinking about going forward, whether that’s in his racing career or just in life.
“I know this is where I’m going to be moving forward, but I’m good with that,” smiles Summers. “I get to work in the family business and drive some of the coolest racecars around; the Super, a Mod Tour car, a SK. It’s all very good and a lot of fun. Sure, there is work and sacrifice, but it is worth every second.”
Hopefully for Summers some of those statistical numbers will turn around in his favor, but if they don’t, it’s still cool to have ‘Rocket’ Rob Summers around, racing and enjoying life.