TOP ROOKIE ROBBINS MAKES STRIDES TOWARD SILVER CROWN SUCCESS
Story By: Richie Murray – USAC Media
Photo By: Dave Olson/USAC Racing
Speedway, Indiana (March 14, 2019)………One season ago, Kyle Robbins accepted a new challenge after more than a decade of being a regular sprint car competitor on the USAC and local Indiana short track trails.
The completion of the challenge at the conclusion of the 2018 season resulted in the New Castle, Indiana native finish an impressive sixth in the standings and net Rookie of the Year honors with the series.
However, the road to reach that point saw some bumps along the way as the 31-year-old driver and his KR Racing team learned the ropes of the big cars on both the dirt and the pavement. Yet, with the knowledge gained and a little help along the way, the team began to hit their stride during the summer months to post a memorable first season.
“I felt really comfortable in the dirt car right out of the gate, but the pavement side of things is something that is taking some work to get comfortable on,” Robbins admitted. “I owe a big thanks to (four-time series champ) Kody Swanson; he always made a point to come see how I was doing or if there were any questions I had when I went to a lot of these tracks for the first time.”
During the first half of the season, the USAC Ford Focus Midget graduate was getting traction under his feet, notching his first top-ten on the pavement at Wisconsin’s Madison International Speedway in June. But it was truly August where Robbins says he saw his biggest turning point.
“I would say we hit a turning point after Salem,” Robbins recalled. “We had a DNF there with a steering issue. At that point, we were almost 60 points back in the Rookie of the Year points and I remember my dad telling me that we weren’t out of it, we just had to keep digging. When we went to Springfield, everything just seemed to go right. We qualified well, ran in the top 10 almost the whole race and ended up with a sixth-place finish. It was just what we needed for our team.”
The confidence continued to grow from race-to-race at that point, as Robbins continued onward to the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds mile dirt track, recording a 10th in the “Ted Horn 100.” He then rounded out the season with a ninth at Rossburg, Ohio’s Eldora Speedway half-mile dirt oval, all the while erasing the large deficit down the stretch to become the highest-finishing Rookie driver in the standings.
“Winning Rookie of the Year was great,” Robbins exclaimed. “To win it the way we did, by digging ourselves out of the hole the last three races, showed a lot on how we grew as a team and kept getting better.”
The only thing slowing down Robbins and the team’s growth at the end of 2018 was the Winter months. Despite the absence of track time for the next six months, that’s when gains are made in the shop and he feels that with the work they’ve done since last September, expect to see this team continue on its upward trajectory in 2019.
“Coming into 2019, I really feel good with our dirt program and feel we’re capable of competing for top-fives and possibly wins. On the pavement side of things, we’ve worked really hard this winter trying to get our car better, which will hopefully show with better finishes. If we can finish in the top-five in points, that would be a good year. I feel we have the cars capable of running up front. We just have to keep working as a team to get better each race.”
On-track action at Memphis International Raceway gets underway on Friday, March 22, with pits opening at 10am Central, leading into a practice which begins at noon.
On Saturday, March 23, the pits open at 8am, with practice sessions running from 10-10:30am and 11-11:30am. Fatheadz Eyewear Qualifying hits the track at 11:45am. An autograph session in the main concourse is set for 12:30 to 1:15pm. Driver intros are slated for 2pm with the green flag for the “Memphis 100” set to fly at 2:20pm.