USAR: Hickory: Race report

Rookie Robbins Tames Field in 4 Brothers 250 Sixteen-year-old driver joins distinct company Hickory, N.C.-Not too many people in racing don't know who Brian Vickers and Joey Logano are these days. In the near future, Trevor Bayne, a ...

Rookie Robbins Tames Field in 4 Brothers 250
Sixteen-year-old driver joins distinct company

Hickory, N.C.-Not too many people in racing don't know who Brian Vickers and Joey Logano are these days. In the near future, Trevor Bayne, a DEI development driver, could join them in racing stardom.

If history is any indicator, fans may want to remember the name Hunter Robbins, too.

On Saturday night at Hickory Motor Speedway, Robbins joined the trio in the Hooters Pro Cup record books by becoming just the fourth driver to win in a race before their 17th birthday.

Robbins, a 16-year-old rookie, swept past Wade Day with 49 laps remaining in the 4 Brothers 250 presented by Galaxy Food Centers and checked out by 3.650 seconds to win his first Hooters Pro Cup event in just his seventh start.

"This car was so awesome tonight," said Robbins, driver of the No. 6s Goodson Consulting Ford. "I could put it anywhere it needed to be. We had motor problems on Thursday in testing, so we took it over to Charlie Long's shop and worked on it until late Friday night. My crew hasn't been to sleep much in the last couple of days, but I couldn't have done it without them, my car owner, Tracy Goodson, the Longs, or the help Benny Gordon gave us with setups."

He also couldn't have won without a little luck on pit strategy.

Robbins gambled on a short-pit strategy, finishing his mandatory stops by taking two left-side tires and fuel before lap 25. The decision looked to be a good one when he cycled into the lead on Lap 78. But just after the halfway mark, Clay Rogers, driver of the No. 54s C&C Boiler Chevrolet, blasted past on fresh rubber.

"I was worried when they caught us for the lead; we hadn't planned on coming back in," said Robbins, who took home $12,000 for the win. "But we were able to pass pretty easy when we pitted earlier in the race, so we decided to come back in and basically have new tires for the final 100 laps. Tires really made a difference."

Robbins restarted deep in the field with just over 100 laps remaining in the event, but he quickly knifed his way back into contention, charging from 16th to third in just 60 laps.

As Robbins was blasting through the field, Wade Day, who took the lead from Rogers on Lap 156, was trying to build enough a lead to hang on for his first Hooters Pro Cup win. But as the race reached the 200-lap mark, Day knew the inevitable was about to happen.

"They told me [Robbins] was coming, and there wasn't much I could do," said Day, driver of the No. 96s Lopez Wealth Management Ford. "I raced him on the high side for a couple of laps, but we had a little space behind us and I didn't want to get freight-trained, so I just let him go."

Though Day was also searching for his first win, he wasn't too disappointed with finishing second.

"Of course you want to win, but we finally finished where we should have tonight," said Day, whose second-place finish was his first top-five run Hooters Pro Cup competition. "To not have a top-five finish before tonight was embarrassing, because we've been a lot better than that. With the luck we've had, I'll settle for second."

Billy Bigley Jr., driver of the No. 82s Peerless Woodworking Ford, tried to take second from Day in the final laps, but he had to settle for third place, which was his career-best finish.

"We made good pit decisions tonight, good chassis decisions and had good calls by my dad spotting," said Bigley. "And the driver actually did a pretty good job of being smart tonight. He didn't screw up. If you put all that together, you get a third-place run."

Trevor Bayne, driver of the No. 29s Chevy Racing Chevrolet, wasn't able to back up his win from a year ago, but he did pick up his fifth top-five of the season by coming home fourth.

James Buescher, driver of the No. 84s Mercedes Homes Chevrolet, completed the top five.

While the top-three finishers were all posting career-best finishes, many of the perennial powerhouses were struggling.

Point leader Mark McFarland, driver of the No. 81s Sears Auto Center Chevrolet, was caught up in a mid-race mishap that dropped him from the lead lap and mangled his machine. But even beforehand, McFarland wasn't a threat for the lead. However, the Pete Knight Racing team rallied to finish 12th, allowing McFarland to carry a 44-point lead into the final race of the Greased Lightning Southern Division regular season at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Michael Ritch, driver of the No. 28s Support Our Troops Ford, missed a prime opportunity to overtake McFarland in the standings. Ritch qualified 23rd and finished ninth at HMS. Ritch did pick up five bonus points for being the Aaron's "Do the Math" Hard Charger, but he only trimmed 15 points off McFarland's point lead.

Clay Rogers, driver of the No. 54s C&C Boiler Chevrolet, grabbed his third Awesome Awnings Pole Award in a row, but the two-time Pro Cup champ faded to sixth at the finish.

After picking up a late-race Lucky Dog, Kirk Leone, driver of the No. 52s Awesome Awnings Ford, rallied to finish seventh, matching his best finish of the season.

Woody Howard, driver of the No. 55s Dean Motorsports Chevrolet, finished where he started in eighth.

Carl Long, driver of the No. 12s Romeo Guest Construction Ford, completed the top 10.

The 4 Brothers 250 was slowed 12 times for 72 laps of caution and featured five lead changes among three drivers.

Notebook:

Bristol on Tap
The Miller Lite Rookie of the Year battle in the Southern Division took a huge turn in the 4 Brothers 250. Drew Herring, driver of the No. 22s BTS Tire & Wheel Distributor Ford, held a 65-point lead over Robbins coming into Hickory Motor Speedway.

But that all changed in a hurry on Saturday night.

Robbins' win pushed the 16-year-old driver ahead 26 points ahead of Herring, who finished a season-low 26th at HMS.

"We've been thinking about the rookie race all year," said Robbins. "We had a good run at Lakeland, but we had some bad breaks that got us behind. We ran top five and top 10 almost every race. We just didn't finish where we were running. We finally got the car where it's unbelievable right now."

Veteran Fun
Though a 16-year-old rookie was running away with the 4 Brothers 250, that didn't stop veterans Wade Day and Billy Bigley Jr. from having a little fun battling for second in the final laps.

The two were slipping and sliding all the way around the .363-mile bullring. But in true veteran fashion, neither driver sent the other spinning.

"That was a blast," said Bigley, driver of the No. 82s Peerless Woodworking Ford. "He was doing everything he could to keep me back there. If I could've gotten around him, we'd a probably run away from him. That's what two good racers can do. They can race, slip and slide and not run over each other. I didn't run over him, and he didn't chop me. That's just really good hard racing."

No Repeat, But Streak Intact for Bayne
After a late-race pit stop, Trevor Bayne, driver of the No. 29s Chevy Racing Chevrolet, made a brief charge towards the front of the field in the 4 Brothers 250. The rally was reminiscent of Bayne's run to victory in last year's event. But this year, his momentum stalled when he caught the top- five runners.

"That really wasn't our strategy, until we started going backwards," said Bayne. "We planned on pitting around Lap 75 to 100 for tires. We were alright in that first run, but we came in for tires, messed with air pressures and started falling back. We came back in again and put our [first set of tires] back on. They were great for about 20 laps, but when the heat got back in them, they fell back off. We want to win them all, but we came out OK tonight."

Bayne's fourth-place finish extended his top-five streak to five races.

-credit: usar

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About this article
Series Stock car
Drivers Clay Rogers , Billy Bigley , Trevor Bayne , Brian Vickers , Carl Long , Mark McFarland , Joey Logano , James Buescher , Drew Herring