STEUBEN, Maine — Steuben’s Rowland Robinson Jr. knows he is an outsider on the American-Canadian (Late Model) Tour.
“We are so far away from the ACT world,” said Robinson. “I don’t think anybody [on the tour] knows where Steuben, Maine, is. I don’t know if anyone realizes [how far away it is].”
But Robinson doesn’t mind.
The 23-year-old is enjoying his second full season on the tour and is currently eighth in the points standings thanks to two top-10 finishes in four races, the total he amassed all of last season.
He finished 14th in points a year ago.
There is a lot of travel involved, but he doesn’t mind.
There is only one race in Maine, an Aug. 17 event at Scarborough’s Beech Ridge Motor Speedway.
The other points races are in New Hampshire (5), Vermont (4), Quebec (2) and New York (2). There are also non-points races in Vermont, New Hampshire and New York.
“I love going to different places and setting the race car up differently week in and week out,” said Robinson, who travels with his father and mother, Rowland Sr. and Debbie; girlfriend Danielle Colson; and close friend Gleason Smith, who works with him on his car.
Everyone is involved on race day.
“[Danielle] and I change the tires and fuel the car and [Rowland Sr.] is his spotter,” said Debbie Robinson.
Smith helps with the car.
“Everybody does something,” said Rowland Robinson, who attended East Sullivan’s Sumner Memorial High School. “My mother also cooks. We try to make it a good time.”
Robinson said Smith has made “quite a difference.”
So has a new Chevy Impala (chassis) built by Jeff Taylor at Distance Racing Products in Fairfield.
“I had never had a new car until this year,” said Robinson.
He struggled when he was racing part-time on the tour in 2011.
“We didn’t have the stuff the other cars had,” he said.
“It was like bringing a knife to a gunfight,” said Debbie Robinson.
They did much better a year ago with a new front clip on the car.
“But over the winter, I asked Jeff, ‘What can take us from the middle of the pack to running up front?’ And he said, ‘Let me build you a new one,’” said Robinson.
So far so good.
Robinson began the season with a fourth-place finish at Lee USA Speedway (N.H.) after starting eighth in the 30-car field.
After a 24th place finish at Thunder Road (Vt.), he finished 14th at Devil’s Bowl Speedway (Vt.).
“We should have had a top 10 [at Devil’s Road] but got a flat tire with around five laps to go,” said Robinson.
His second top 10 occurred at Airborne Speedway (N.Y.) when he wound up ninth among 28 cars.
On Sunday, Robinson led the first 29 laps of the 150-lap race at Riverside Speedway in Groveton, N.H., when rain washed out the event. It will be resumed where it left off at a later date.
Robinson is from a racing family.
His father was a prominent racer and he would go to the track with his dad.
Robinson began racing when he was 15 in the Street Stocks class at Speedway 95 in Hermon and, in just his third season, he captured the points championship in that class.
He bought a Pro Stock car for a Pro All-Stars Series North race at Speedway 95 but the race was rained out and PASS never returned to 95.
So he switched his allegiances to Late Models and won the Wiscasset Speedway points championship in 2010.
Wiscasset Raceway shut down after the 2010 season so he decided to the ACT series.
Robinson said there are a lot of enjoyable aspects of ACT, including its consistent rules package.
“That’s why we’ve stuck with the ACT, more or less,” said Robinson noting that the rules don’t change and there is no favoritism shown to any of the drivers.
He also likes the good, clean, competitive racing.
“I haven’t had to change a body part on my car, although I don’t want to jinx it, because nobody is out there to wreck you,” said Robinson. “Everybody who shows up there is pretty good and that’s why they’re there. For some of them, it’s their job to win races. And it’s not like we’re running 25-lap features. We have a lot of competition wherever we go. But I enjoy it.”
He said one of the keys to success is qualifying and they do so through a series of heat races.
“We want to qualify the best we can. Starting up front can make your day. If you start back in the pack in some of the smaller [one-third of a mile] race tracks, it’s not long before you get lapped and if you get a lap down, your day is numbered,” said Robinson.
He has raised his expectations this season.
“We finished 14th with two top-10s last season and, with the new car, I’d like to double that. So I’d like to finish seventh this season with at least four top-10s. Maybe even a couple of top-fives,” said Robinson, who is one of just three Mainers who have run all four races along with Turner’s Glen Luce and Auburn’s Travis Stearns.
Luce and Stearns are tied for 12th in points.
Robinson will return to the track on Saturday, June 15 at Canaan Fair Speedway in Canaan, N.H. It will be the fifth of 14 points races.