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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - It took a bit longer than he would have liked, but Darren Robertson is finally able to call himself a champion.
Robertson, 31, secured his first NASCAR track championship this year at Colorado National Speedway in Dacono, Colorado. It was a long time coming for the third-generation racer, who also secured the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Colorado championship this season.
“It feels great obviously,” said Robertson. “I’ve come close to winning both of them many, many times and this is the first time for both of them. It’s definitely like a weight off my shoulders, really. We’ve been second and had really good years going and something stupid has happened. A wreck, broken motors and part failures or something.”
That didn’t happen this year as Robertson put together one of the best seasons of his career at Colorado National. Robertson won five times and rarely finished off the podium, allowing him to capture the track championship by 33 points over Jace Hansen.
The Colorado championship came as a result of that same consistency. In 13 starts atColorado National, Robertson finished inside the top-five 12 times and collected 13 top-10 finishes. He also finished fourth at I-25 Speedway in Pueblo, Colorado. That allowed him to best Hansen for the Colorado championship by 39 points.
U.S. state and province champions are determined by the best 18 finishes at tracks within the respective state or province.
By claiming his first track championship, Robertson joined his grandfather, Odie, and his father, Jerry, as a track champion at the .375-mile asphalt oval. If the name Jerry Robertson sounds familiar, it’s because he was instrumental in the formation of the powerhouse Furniture Row Racing team, which now competes in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
“Barney (Visser, Furniture Row owner) actually bought a race car, a modified, and he had no racing experience,” the younger Robertson explained. “He bought a modified in 2004 and he was referred over to my dad’s shop to have it worked on so he could fit in the seat. He’s a big guy, he’s tall, so he needed the foot box extended and the seat moved back.
“My dad worked on his car and they just kind of became friends. Barney asked my dad what his goals were and my dad told him. My dad didn’t know that he was (the owner of) Furniture Row. My dad told him and a couple weeks went by and then he and my dad flew to Charlotte and bought some cars and they started Furniture Row Racing. My dad drove for them for the next three years in what is now the XFINITY Series.”
Following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, both of whom are members of the Colorado Motorsports Hall of Fame, is something the younger Robertson says came naturally.
“Naturally since I grew up I watched him race,” Robertson said. “When I got about 13, 14 or 15 years old I started working in the shop with him. Naturally I loved it, so naturally I got into it.
“He’s real proud,” Robertson continued. “He helps us work on the car and gives us ideas on what to do. He’s there to lean on when I have questions at the race track. He’s definitely involved and proud.”
Robertson has had championship caliber seasons before, including in 2007 when he won seven times, but a change in the championship format bit him at the end of the year and cost him a chance at his first championship.
“In 2007, we won seven features out here and we had a 100 point lead over second place and the track did a chase format with the last five races,” Robertson recalled. “I won the first one, finished third in the second one and in the third race I got involved in a wreck and that completely eliminated me out of the points. We feel like we would have won that one for sure had it been a normal points situation.”
Close calls like that fueled Robertson, whose No. 11 was sponsored by Automatic Garage Door Inc., Palomino Industries, Alreco Aluminum Surplus, to keep chasing championships. This year he finally succeeded and he has earned the opportunity to travel to Charlotte, North Carolina, for the NASCAR HomeTracks Awards on Dec. 8 at the Charlotte Convention Center at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
“Obviously being able to go down to Charlotte, where the racing hub is, is exciting,” Robertson said. “To be recognized and go to ceremonies…we got the email about what the dress code is and it sounds like a pretty formal dinner and ceremony. It’ll be fun and we’re all looking forward to that, for sure.”