Rick Robinson’s love for racing began at an early age when his parents took him to the stockcar races in the late 1950s at “The Hole,” a track located just off State Road 7 in Columbus.
The Columbus native doesn’t remember much at all about that experience, except that he really liked watching the races.
“My mom and dad loved going to the races, but I was about 2 years old at the time,” he said. “It was only later on when I started going with my brother, Tom, and the Smallwood family to the 25th Street Fairgrounds track that I really got hooked.”
Robinson, now 57, will be the new promoter of Twin Cities Raceway Park in Vernon beginning in the 2015 season. He has an ambitious 30-race schedule in place with a plan for a fan- and family-friendly facility that he and track manager, Tom Wetherald, the well-known businessman from Columbus, envisioned three years ago.
“Tom came and asked me in December if I wanted to promote Twin Cities,” said Robinson, who has raced a crate late model since 2009. “I really didn’t want to give up driving, but Tom has put a lot of effort into making Twin Cities a place people want to come to. I have to thank Troy Tabata and the Collins family for what they have done the last couple of years. It’s a lot of hard work, and I am honored to follow in their footsteps, along with everyone else who has promoted the track.”
Robinson and his crew already are hard at work preparing for the 2015 racing season. They have cut down the dirt that had built up against the wall which limited visibility and made for a launching point for cars to get into the outside retaining fence. Other improvements include expansion of a new public address system that was installed last year, and replacing some of the grandstand seating with new boards. Various other repairs and additions will be in place for the first race, scheduled for March 20.
“We are going to run nine sprint-car races this year,” Robinson said. “Fans and drivers really like to see the sprints at Twin Cities. I have talked to some drivers who are dusting off their cars and coming back to racing because we are running them. I realize there are other tracks running sprints on Saturday night, but we feel we can get enough cars to put on a quality show.”
Besides promoting Twin Cities this year, Robinson keeps busy with Industrial Solutions Technology, a professional maintenance service company he founded in 2000 and incorporated in 2005. After graduating from Columbus North High School in 1976, he served four years in the Air Force in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, before returning to Columbus.
“I have to thank Troy Gilpin, Danny Ogle and Renee Manning for all of their assistance in getting this going,” Robinson said. “I hate to hang up my helmet, but who knows, I may put someone in my cars and let them race. I just have to concentrate on the running of the track. We are going to have company nights like NTN and Toyota nights, with their employees getting special discounted admission tickets. We want to be a part of the solution for bringing back local racing to the fans and drivers that deserve that in this area.”
The 2014 track champions at Twin Cities were Tim Prince of Heltonville (Late Models), Trent Green of Milton, Kentucky (Modifieds), Randy Petro of Columbus (Super Stocks), Troy Clark of North Vernon (Pure Stocks) and Colton Sullivan of Columbus (Hornets).
For more information on the upcoming season and the complete schedule you can visit the track’s website at twincitiesracewaypark.net.
Gilpin kicks off season in Florida
Devin Gilpin of Columbus kicked off his 2015 racing season with three UMP open-wheel modified events at East Bay Raceway Park near Tampa, Florida, last week. Gilpin finished second in the season-opener Jan. 29, and followed that up with two more podium finishes Friday and Saturday as he came home in third in both of those main events. His plans are to race this week at Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Florida.
James Essex covers motorsports for The Republic. He can be reached at [email protected].