April 4, 2014 — By Paul Schaefer, NASCAR — Joe Starr photo — DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Three generations of a prominent Colorado NASCAR Whelen All-American Series racing family are planning to meet in competition for the first time this year. Their NASCAR Home Track, Colorado National Speedway, is one of 31 NASCAR weekly tracks scheduled to open in April.
The Robertson family name has been around Colorado National Speedway since the 1960s when it opened as a dirt track. Two generations competed together there as recently as last fall. This year all three generations plan to race together for the first time. The .375-mile paved oval located in Dacono, Colo., opens April 5.
Odie Robertson, now 75, of North Glenn, Colo., is a two-time winner of the track’s signature event, the Challenge Cup, a 100-lap late model race. He won the inaugural season-ending event at the then half-mile dirt track in 1975, and again in 1980. He made a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start at Riverside (Calif.) International Raceway in 1974. Although he preferred life as a traveling racer chasing big money events, the senior Robertson won the Colorado National dirt late model track championship in 1976. He put his career on hold in the early 1980s to help son Jerry start his own racing career.
Jerry Robertson, now 52 of Commerce City, Colo., began his racing career in dirt late models at Colorado National in 1981. The track became a .375-mile paved oval in 1989. On asphalt, the second generation driver became a three-time NASCAR super late model track and NASCAR regional champion. He won the Challenge Cup race in 1996, 2002 and 2004. He stopped racing after the 2004 season to help his son Darren start his career.
Darren Robertson, 27, of West Minster, Colo., began his career in quarter-midgets and legends before entering stock car racing in Grand American modifieds in 2004. He moved to NASCAR super late models in 2005. He won his first Challenge Cup last September, and in the process made history as the event’s first third-generation winner. His grandfather placed ninth in the event.
Odie Robertson started to sense history after that race.
“When Darren won it, that made all three of us Challenge Cup winners,” Robertson said. “It kind of lit the fire for all three of us to race together this year. Darren and I are planning to race on a weekly basis.”
Only Darren will be competing when the season opens Friday. He’ll be driving his grandfather’s car. By week two, both should be on track together.
Jerry Robertson plans to run a limited schedule and will get a late start.
“Dad came up with the idea last year and I decided I’m going to do it,” he said. “I’ll run at least two races and probably a few more.”
Jerry Robertson’s business, Robertson Racing, is a dealer and service facility for Port City and Hamke pavement late model chassis and STR Modified chassis. At his shop, up to 20 cars are built, maintained or repaired between seasons.
“Customer cars are my priority,” Robertson said. “I’m not rushing my own racing. When I can focus on the car I’ll drive, test it and practice with it – and get comfortable with how late models handle now – then I’ll get ready to race. I want to know I’ll be competitive.
“I idolized my dad when I was going up,” Robertson continued. “He was the guy people wanted to beat. I wanted to be like him. He was a great race car driver, teacher and mentor. Without my dad I wouldn’t have had so many opportunities in my racing career.”
Darren Robertson knew from a young age he too wanted to be part of the sport.
“I grew up around it so when I got old enough I started helping and learning,” he said. “Eventually a guy gave me an old Modified and said if we fixed it up we could race it for the season. I won a feature, finished second in points and won rookie of the year.”
He moved up to super late models in 2005 with sponsorship from Furniture Row and was again top rookie. He won his first feature in the division in 2006. He’s been a contender in track point races and placed fourth in the 2013 track standings.
He’s looking forward to his dad joining him and his grandfather on track.
“I think dad will be just as good as he was when he quit and I hope grandpa will right there with us. We had my car figured out by the end of last season and I think we can carry that momentum into this year.”
The senior Robertson is ready to get on track this year.
“It’ll sure be special,” Odie Robertson said. “I’m looking for Jerry to do really well. Ten laps and he’ll be back in the groove again. If I get dialed in I might be competitive enough to pass him. Jerry’s pretty good with chassis, set-ups and shocks. I should have a competitive car. Then we’ll see if I can be a competitive driver.”
Jerry Robertson moved back east to the Charlotte area in 1985 to race dirt Late Models in the Carolinas and his dad followed a year later. Both enjoyed a lot of success. Jerry stayed in the Charlotte area until 1989. After returning to the Denver area he continued to race on dirt through 1993 and won a career total of 126 dirt Late Model races. In his first year on pavement at Colorado National in 1994 he won the Modified division track championship. He won his track and regional championships in 2000 and 2003-04.
He was also exploring competition in NASCAR’s national series. He made five NASCAR Nationwide Series starts between 1997-2003 and eight in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series 1996-2001. In 2005 he made the second NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start for team owner Barney Visser’s new Denver-based Furniture Row Racing. He made 19 NASCAR Nationwide Series starts for the team 2005-06. After that, he refocused his energy on the Robinson Racing family business as well as his son’s racing efforts.
Odie Robertson was born in Oklahoma and stationed by the U.S. Navy in California when his racing career began 54 years ago at Cajon Speedway in El Cajon, Calif. He eventually traveled to dirt tracks around the state, and then relocated to the Denver area in 1970. Following his mid-1970s success at Colorado National, he went back to being a traveling racer. He won one of the first big-money dirt late model events that paid $15,000 to win at Medford (Ore.) Speedway in 1980. He stopped racing a year later and relocated to South Carolina in 1985.
Odie Robertson raced dirt late models sporadically between 1989 and 2001. He established an engine rebuilding business and later a passenger car hauling business. He won four 50-lap features during the 1999 season at Cherokee Speedway in Gaffney, S.C. He returned to the Denver area just last year and made several starts at Colorado National, concluding with the top-10 finish in September’s Challenge Cup.
Colorado National Speedway hosts NASCAR Whelen All-American Series racing on Saturdays. Other divisions include late models, pro trucks, grand American modifieds, super stocks, and figure-8.www.coloradospeedway.com