Hunter Robbins Picks Up a Piece of History at Hickory Motor Speedway By Amy Hayes
16-Year Old Joins Ranks of Elite Winners in USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series
When a rookie heads into an ultra competitive series, such as the USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series, they aren’t expected to win.
Sure, the occasional flukes happen and sometimes rookies pull off miracles. But they aren’t supposed to go side-by-side racing with some of the best in the business, such as Clay Rogers and Bobby Gill, the veterans who know the grooves on the track like the back of their hand.
No, they aren’t expected to, but that is just what Hunter Robbins did in the latest Southern Division event at Hickory Motor Speedway as the 16-year-old Rookie drove past the point leaders like it was no big deal on his way to victory lane.
“This is just unbelievable,” said Robbins. “It hasn’t sunk in yet; maybe it will when I start reading the articles and stuff. It’s just unbelievable. It’s hard to believe the race is already over; our car was just so good. I didn’t have to work too hard. The crew did their job and got me in the position that we needed to be. The car was just perfect.”
Former USAR Hooters Pro Cup Champion Benny Gordon has been assisting Robbins in getting his car setup for some of the races, and he had some perfect timing as well, giving Robbins a call to see how the race went as he was standing in victory lane.
“This car was awesome. Benny Gordon has helped me out so much getting this car where it needs to be.”
After starting from the second position, Robbins chose to pit early. And as in any long race, pit strategy paid some dividends for someone in the end. This time it was his turn. He had pitted early, hoping to have the pit stops out of the way, but later chose to come back in for some fresh rubber.
“I was worried a little when the leaders got back up to me (on fresh tires). I thought it was pretty easy to get back up there after we pitted, so we decided to go back in and get some fresh tires. I felt pretty comfortable coming in with 100 laps to go to get the four tires.”
It didn’t take him too long to get back up there either. On lap 201, Robbins took the lead from Wade Day and didn’t look back, but it wasn’t before he spent a couple of laps racing hard side by side with Day.
It may have been hard, but it was most certainly clean.
Hunter Robbins was one happy guy in victory lane on Saturday night. (51 Photos)
The 96 of Wade Day and the 6 of Hunter Robbins were the two fighting for the lead late in the race.
“That’s all I want to do is race the other drivers clean and earn their respect,” added Robbins. “I think that I did a good job of earning that tonight.”
While the end of the race was all Robbins, at the beginning of the race it looked like experience would reign supreme. Pro Cup Veteran, and someone who might be considered a Hickory Expert of sort, Clay Rogers started the race from the pole position. Robbins had started the race second and he was followed by former Late Model standout Day, who would end up the day finishing second. For the first 200 or so laps the race was all about Rogers and Day, as they swapped the lead back and forth
“We finally finished where we supposed to,” said Day. “That’s been our thing all year long. We have been running good and had good race cars, but stuff has happened.
“That’s definitely better than beating around in the back for sure and there was some hard racing up front. I got into Clay, and I clobbered him. I didn’t mean to, and I am trying to find him to apologize, but that is just hard racing I guess.”
That hard racing changed on lap 201 when a new face worked his way into the mix. The 6 of Robbins had been a contender all night long. Hanging up front for the first 200 or so laps, he let Day and Rogers do the beating and banging, along with the two wide and three wide racing. But at lap 201, after finding some strategy with the pit stops, he found himself in the position to go for the win.
Robbins wasn’t alone in his quiet run up top. Billy Bigley Jr. also was a quiet but consistent force throughout the night, which earned him a third place finish as well as a jump up in the point standings. He was also able to avoid some of the three-wide racing that took place up front.
“It was pretty crazy up there,” said Bigley. “The guys who put on tires would run good for awhile, but if they didn’t have a good chassis they would fall back.
“We had a great car when we unloaded today. We have been trying to keep everything real simple on the chassis and it has been super good since. We just had to do everything right. This is a hard group to race. We just had to do our job stay out of trouble, keep our nose clean and use good pit strategy and it paid off. It was a great race all night long.”