The last time Hunter Robbins made an appearance at the Snowball Derby, he put his family-owned No. 18 Super Late Model on the pole and came home with a fourth-place finish in 2014. Five years later, the former Kyle Busch Motorsports Race Engineer will make his return to the nation’s biggest Super Late Model race in a ride that’s familiar to the Alabama-born driver.
Robbins will reunite with former car owner and former Snowball Derby champion Ronnie Sanders to compete in the 52nd Annual Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway on December 5-8.
Robbins originally partnered with Sanders in 2012 after the Georgia legend parted ways with Bubba Pollard, leading to success for both and a career resurrection for Robbins. Four years after the two split ways, Robbins and Sanders will join forces again to chase the Tom Dawson Trophy.
“I’m pretty excited just to have another opportunity to run again with anybody, but to be back with Ronnie is pretty cool. We’ve always had somewhat of a special relationship, he’s always been kind of like a grandfather, it seems like the last eight years of so,” Robbins told Speed51.com. “I’m just looking forward to it, I figure we have a really good shot with a really good piece of equipment.”
The former Snowflake 100 winner finished 10th in the Snowflake in 2015. That would be the last race he would run for nearly four years until he got back behind the wheel for the Blizzard Series finale in September. Robbins finished 26th in the race after mechanical issues ended his day early.
After having spent recent years on top of the pit box in the NASCAR Truck Series, the race was important for Robbins as he got reacclimated to being behind the wheel.
“Really, just trying to learn how hard to go again, I hadn’t raced in a couple years. Sitting on the pit box is a little bit different than sitting behind the wheel,” he said. “After sitting on the pit box for a couple years, you kind of look at the races a little different, so I think I learned a little bit and taking a different perspective of everything. It was like starting over again. We had a pretty good run going but we had some mechanical problems the first race back. Just enjoy it again, mainly. Not put so much pressure on yourself and just have fun because that’s what it’s really there for.”
While it hasn’t been experience behind the wheel, Robbins had gotten much experience in long-distance races as a Race Engineer for Kyle Busch Motorsports in the NASCAR Truck Series in recent years. That paired with fourth-place runs in his two most-recent Snowball Derby attempts in 2013 and 2014 has him ready for the 52nd edition of the race.
“I haven’t been running the long-distance races lately but just knowing what you’ve got to do to be there at the end. The experience I’ve gotten in the last couple years of trying to have good cars for long races and how to prepare them for long races has helped,” he said. “I think my last two starts we ended up with top fives in the Derby. I used to not worry about qualifying but now I feel like I have a little bit more nervousness about that, just to qualify well. I think I’ll race well no matter what.
This year’s Snowball Derby has extra meaning for Robbins, who now resides in Pensacola with wife and former Snowball Derby champion Johanna Long-Robbins and daughter Rory.
“Living down here full-time it’s just even bigger. With the amount of friends and family that are going to be there watching us, that just puts even more pressure on the whole deal,” he stated. “At the same time, it’s kind of different to go run the Derby and sleep in your own bed at night. I drive by the race track almost every day. The week of the Derby just turns into an entirely different, special place there.”
The best Super Late Model racers in the country will take the green flag at 2 p.m. CT on Sunday, December 8 for 300 laps of racing in the 52nd Annual Snowball Derby. Speed51 will have race fans covered with flag-to-flag coverage until the Tom Dawson Trophy is delivered to the winner in victory lane.
Individual video tickets are available for each day of racing; however, a four-day early bird video ticket offers a total savings of $38. To order your early bird Snowball Derby four-day video package today, click here and use discount code “snowbird.” Individual video tickets can be purchased now at the regular price by clicking here.
For more information on the 52nd Annual Snowball Derby, visit Speed51’s Snowball Central.
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51 State Editor (IN/MI) - Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo credit: Speed51.com