Notes: Super ride over, but Roberson still upbeat
Logan Roberson had an inclination that driving for J.C. and Marcia Clary’s No. 89 Brodnax Shaker Motorsports team wouldn’t go on for years and years. Not because of any internal red flags, but the owners of the Brodnax, Va., team told the 25-year-old he’d be their last driver.
On Nov. 14, the Waynesboro, Va., native announced that his tenure driving for the Clarys has officially ended. The couple doesn’t plan to go on, instead ceasing operations as a race team, but Roberson added that the family will continue to sponsor him moving forward through their automobile business, Clary's Used Cars.
“I think everything was going forward, but they got to the point in their life that they wanted to get out of racing,” Roberson told DirtonDirt.com in a Friday phone interview. “They said they were getting older — J.C. is in his 60s and Marcia is in her 50s — and they’ve been in it for so long. They helped so many drivers become the next best thing, or the next thing in life. I think that’s what they did for me.
“We talked back and forth before this deal. And they always said I’d be their last driver, or they always wanted to give me a shot to drive for them. It worked out perfect. They gave me a shot and gave me some of the best equipment I could have. And sent me out on the road for a year. They spent a lot of money on me. It was definitely a mutual agreement. We have zero hard feelings. We actually still talk everyday.”
Roberson started driving the Clary-owned No. 89 machine at the beginning of this year, when the Virginia-powered team elected to try their hand on the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series. It was a partnership that evolved from the Clarys serving as longtime sponsors of Roberson, who earned the ride because of his impressive track record as a Crate Late Model racer.
The opening two races of 2023 at Golden Isles Speedway near Brunswick, Ga. — finishes of 18th and 24th — were productive enough that he harnessed the speed to challenge for a heat race victory by the third and final night of the series season-launching event. But Roberson’s momentum came to a painful and expensive halt when his car overturned battling Lucas Oil Series dominator Ricky Thornton Jr.
“We went to Speedweeks and of course had a lot of bad luck,” Roberson said. “But I felt like we ran decent … when we stayed on four wheels. (The Clarys) said this is the best time to get out of racing because of the economy. With the way things are going nowadays, it’s really tough.”
Roberson now shifts his focus to his family-owned equipment, an effort that likely won’t take him around the country. The Virginian that picked up one Super Late Model victory on June 3 with the Ultimate Southeast Series at Halifax County Motor Speedway in Brinkleyville, N.C., obviously would like to be competing in high-level Super events, but if those options are limited, he at least has a profitable Crate Late Model program to lean on.
“I feel like it’ll be very tough, but I feel like we can afford it, especially our Crate program,” Roberson said. “We’ll be OK because we make good money doing the Crate stuff. I feel like it’ll keep us afloat. I still do this for a living. Hopefully it’ll all work out at the end of the day.”
Of Roberson’s nearly 60-race ledger this year, a few make him proud. His Ultimate Series triumph marked his third career Super victory. Lucas Oil Series runs at Port Royal (Pa.) Speedway’s Rumble by the River on Aug. 25 — a 10th-place result — and Tyler County Speedway’s Hillbilly 100 in Middleborne, W.Va., provide glimpses of his potential.
At the Hillbilly 100, Roberson won a heat race to start from the front row. And though the end results shows an 11th-place finish, he ran inside the top-five most of the century grind until a lap-91 spin spoiled the steady performance.
Roberson doesn’t see any of those shortcomings as missed opportunities. He feels he furthered his driving career and pruned his driving talents during his time racing for the Clarys, and that’s what matters most.
“One hundred percent. I think it made me — I don’t know how to say this — but I feel like what I learned in one year, it took me four years to learn in a Crate car,” Roberson said. “It fast forwards everything. Honestly it made a lot better race car driver. It just made me understand my cars a little more because you’re put in a situation where you have to get out there every night with it and you have to learn, or you get off the road. It puts you in the situation where you have to want to learn and I think we did both of those this season.”
When thinking about next season, Roberson doubts he’ll start the 2024 campaign at Georgia-Florida Speedweeks — “Unless I was offered a ride or sponsorship comes along,” he said — but he’ll still stay busy as ever. He no longer considers himself a Super Late Model rookie, but now a driver who has the foundation to improve on what’s learned to hopefully progress in the Dirt Late Model ranks.
“I couldn’t thank (the Clarys) enough for all they’ve done for me,” Roberson said. “Down to the traveling and getting me the experience at all these places, they pretty much paid my way for the whole year and took a chance on me. I was just a regular Crate guy. They gave me a shot at the big leagues or whatever. They paid for a lot of my rookie mistakes and a lot of my growing pains.
“They told me to take it on the chin and they were always positive through anything that ever happened. They said, ‘Hey, son, that’s going to happen.’ They’ve been through it before with other people. They knew what to expect and that’s why we got along so great. In return, I thought we ran good in our aspect for what we have. I think they were happy.” — Kyle McFadden
DECISION ON KANSAS TRACK POSTPONED: The half-mile dirt track at the Kansas State Fairgrounds in Hutchinson, Kan., which the fair board in November 2022 voted to demolish, received a reprieve with the board last month appointing an eight-member committee to further study a resolution ahead of a Jan. 9 vote, according to a report in the Hutchinson News. The track has hosted the Hutch Grand Nationals, which includes Late Model competition, for 67 years. The fair board had planned to demolish the 110-year-old facility to make way for additional parking or a new arena, but received pushback from the racing community. Grand Nationals promoter C. Ray Hall spoke at the Nov. 14 board meeting, proposing an increase in his rent for the event and an allowance to let the fairgrounds receive more money from concessions. Phil Nightingale of Mel Hambleton Ford also proposed an upgrade in concrete barriers and an improved infield and racing surface with plans to shorten the track to 3/8-mile in 2025.
ALMS PURCHASES IRON-MAN: Idle since 2021, the Sam Driggers-owned Sunoco American Late Model Series has purchased Chris Tilley’s two-division Valvoline Iron-Man Racing Series, rebranding the merged tours as the Valvoline American Late Model Iron-Man Series. The DIRTcar-sanctioned tour's Northern division plans to compete at former ALMS tracks in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and northern Kentucky while the Southern division will compete in southern Kentucky, east Tennessee, north Georgia and Alabama. The organization plans $10,000- and $5,000-to-win events with Tilley directing programs and day-to-day operations with Michael Despain continuing as announcer and public relations director. For more information, call Tilley at (828) 361-5981 or Driggers at (704) 467-7786.
FARMERS TO PROMOTE MILLSTREAM: Former Fremont (Ohio) Speedway promoters Rich and Shelley Farmer will promote the reopening Millstream Speedway in Findlay, Ohio, for new owners Matt and Beth Cogley. Rich Farmer didn’t announced a 2024 schedule, saying its dependent on getting the 4/10-mile facility ready. A “handful of special events” are expected, said Farmer, who promoted Fremont from 2008-17. Along with the help from volunteers, the Cogleys have been working on cleaning up overgrowth and removing the infield fence. Follow progress of the track at facebook.com/Millstream.Speedway. — Brian Liskai
POINTS FUND BOOST IN SUPERIOR: The Late Model points fund at Gondik Law Speedway is expected to grow to $25,000 in 2024 with increased sponsorship from Pat Kapella-owned KME. The points fund will pay out to the top 15 points earner in eight events. Last year’s points fund paid $20,000 with champion Pat Doar of New Richmond, Wis., receiving $6,000 in winning four of six events (two races rained out). Interested sponsors can contact Joe at (218) 349-7367 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
BEGINNER CLASS AT TENNESSEE NATIONAL: Tennessee National Raceway in Hohenwald, Tenn., announced a new economy Late Model division for beginners that will run monthly for purse from $200- to $500-to-win. The engine rules will follow the track’s bomber division with a requirement for used tires and chassis that were built in 2019 or before. Competitors must have never previously competed in a Late Model division and can be in the division a maximum of two years (drivers 65 or older are exempt from that limit). See the track’s Facebook page for complete rules and more details.
WISSOTA’S EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR STEPS DOWN: Rod Lindquist last month stepped down after two years as interim executive director for the WISSOTA Promoter’s Association, the organization announced. Vice president Nikki Elton will be the eight-division governing body’s temporary point of contact with board members Mike Jordet and Denny Niess handling sponsorship sales and advertising. Contact Elton at email@example.com or (320) 221-6350.
ODDS AND ENDS: Citing multiple sources, InsideDirtRacing.com has reported that 411 Motor Speedway in Seymour, Tenn., will be sold to a business that salvages vehicles. Track owner Mitch McCarter had no comment when contacted by DirtonDirt.com. The track’s Thanksgiving-weekend Leftover event drew more than 50 Limited Late Models and more than 250 race cars overall. … Mississippi Thunder Speedway in Fountain City, Wis., has added 2,100 tons of new dirt to the surface in preparation for the 2024 season. The track plans to release its scheduled by mid-December. … Four-time DIRTcar weekly Crate Late Model champion Jose Parga of New Berlin, Ill., a 20-race winner in 2023, plans to chase the Alabama-based Crate Racin’ USA championship in 2024, the team announced. … Penton (Ala.) Raceway’s improvements in planning to reopen in 2024 include the addition of a third-floor scoring and announcing area above the concession stand. … Halifax County Motor Speedway owner Michael Wells is selling the Brinkleyville, N.C., track to focus on his other businesses, according to a report in OutsideGroove.com. The 3/10-mile oval, listed at $500,000, hosted Late Models events in 2023 for the Carolina Clash, Ultimate Southeast, I-95 Challenge and Steel Block Bandits tours. … The second-year Premier Racing Organization announced that it will sanction all Saturday night Late Model events at Independence (Iowa) Motor Speedway in 2024.