(July 25, 2017) Stock car racing is pretty serious business, especially at our highest level. The RE/MAX Group Four Realty Pro Stock division has plenty of experienced veterans and some pretty sharp youngsters.
Pro Stocks have been a trade mark in the Geary Woods ever since day one. Robert Tomlinson raced here on opening night, back in 1994, and continues to come to Speedway 660 every week for the love of the sport. He’ll be in the Geary Woods for the Clark Chevrolet Best of the Best Pro Stock 150 on Saturday night.
A Conversation with Robert Tomlinson
Wade: Robert you’ve been at this game for a long time.
Robert: I started driving a Sportsman car in the late 1980’s over at Spud Speedway in Caribou, Maine. I only ran there for a year and then Spud closed down for a year or two.This is Robert’s first race car. He ran it over at SPUD Speedway in Maine.
One night I went over to Douglastown, on the Miramichi, to watch the races and told my brother Maynard I was going to buy the winning car. Jim Sommerville won the Sportsman feature and I walked up to him and offered to buy his car. We agreed on a price so I said I would be back over Monday morning to pick it up. This is the car Robert raced in the Miramichi all those years ago. His daughter Hayley is his “Pride & Joy” and daughter and father still love going to the races together.
I got there with the money in an envelope for the car and trailer and Jim’s wife comes to the door and when I told her I was there to get the race car, she let a scream out of her. She was pretty excited to see it go, but Jim wasn’t so excited. That was in 1990 and I ran that car in Douglastown for the rest of the season. The next year I sold the car and then ran in a late model division for two or three years after Spud re-opened.This is the late model car Robert ran over at Spud a couple of years before New Brunswick International Speedway opened. Joe Craig (left) sponsored Robert back in those days.
Wade: And shortly after that Speedway 660, then known as New Brunswick International Speedway, opened in Geary.
Robert: Gerry O’Leary was up running with us at Spud and started talking about building a track down here. I came down to take a look and walked around the track the day they paved it. I raced the very first race here on July 20th, 1994 and finished second in the Pro Stock feature. We had some good running cars in those days. Shawn Tucker was here and Johnny Albert and The Caribou Kid and John Ridgeway. So I go back quite a ways in racing and my brother and I still enjoy it to this day.Robert raced in the Geary Woods on our very first opening day. There are not too many drivers still racing today who can say that! Like most racers Robert Thomlinson works hard all week knowing that Saturday will soon come around. That’s the day he gets to go racing. He’s been driving a race car since the late 80′s and has been coming to Speedway 660 since it opened in July of 94!
Wade: You’ve seen a lot of guys come and go over the years, but you keep racing. You’ve also seen a lot of changes in our sport over the years.
Robert: The technology is much different now that it was when I started out. We use different shocks and just getting the shock and springs set up to work for you is something of a chore. Fans might not know this, but these Pro Stock cars are pretty finicky. You can have a good car one week and come back the next week and not be so good.
You have to look at what the weather is up to and make the proper adjustments. The set up is very, very critical. The car will act different when you practice at 3 o’clock in the afternoon compared to when you start the feature around 9’o’clock in the evening. You have to be prepared for that and adjust for that.Things happen quickly in a Pro Stock race. Sometimes you can steer clear of a wreck and other times you get caught up in them.
Wade: There are a lot of kids in our sport these days. Back when we were kids we never got the opportunity to drive a race car like these kids do today.
Robert: I wanted to drive a race car when I was a kid, but in those days it just wasn’t possible. But I was working on a race car when I was 14 and 15 and went to the races as often as I could. I never got the opportunity to drive a car back then, like these kids are doing today.
It’s great to see the young guys coming up and I take a lot of pride in talking with them. They are all very polite and I always tell them they need to earn respect from the veterans who helped build the sport and make it what it is today. If they do that they’ll go a long ways.Robert has raced with a lot of drivers over the last three decades. He is impressed with the kids who are coming into our sport these day. Robert says the young drivers, like Ashton Tucker (#32), will carry on the racing tradition for many years to come.
Wade: You trailer your car down from Arthurette every week to go racing. That’s a pretty long haul.
Robert: Yeah it’s a long drive, but it’s a little quicker and safer since the four lane opened. Speedway 660 is a pretty special place. Gerry O’Leary got it going and then Steve and Tracy Burns and Chris Johnson did a great job for many years and the Roy and Foley families do a great job now. From day one this place has operated very professionally and has always had very good racing. Robert loves racing at Speedway 660 because of the fans, the facility, the marketing partners and the professional manner in which the track is run.
I’ve raced at tracks in Maine and New Brunswick and you just don’t see the hard work and dedication that goes into making racing a success everywhere else. That’s why I’m still here doing it. I went back to Spud for a couple of years to try to help them get it going again, but returned to Speedway 660 mainly because of the way this place is run and the dedication of the owners and staff to putting on a great show for the fans. Robert has raced many places, but says Speedway 660 is where he really likes to run. He says the fans in the Geary Woods love their racing as much as the drivers love putting on a show for them.
Wade: The Clark Chevrolet Best of the Best 150 is this weekend. We had a slow start to the season, but things are really starting to pick up.
Robert: The racing has been anything but slow, but the weather has been a factor this season for sure. It’s gotta be tough owning a race track and depending on getting good weather. Last week the weather was perfect for the Firecracker 150 and we had a great crowd. The Best of the Best 150 is one of my favourite races of the season and hopefully Saturday will be a nice sunny day and beautiful evening and attract another large audience.
Speedway 660 always has great racing, so the product has always been good. We’ve got a good mix of veterans and young drivers at this track and that makes for good racing now and makes for a bright future.Fans flock to Speedway 660 on SpeedWeekend because they know its the biggest racing spectacle of the year in Atlantic Canada. But Robert says our weekly show is pretty darned good too and encourages fans to come out to the track more often. This weekend we’ve got the Clark Chevrolet Best of the Best pro Stock 150 on the sked.
Wade: There are a lot of race fans from the Upper Saint John River Valley. I know you’ve got a lot of fans and support from up your way. Who helps you go racing?
Robert: My brother Maynard has been working on race cars even before I started as a teenager. He worked with his brother-in-law who raced at the old dirt track in Perth-Andover. My son-in-law James has been working with us for the last couple of years and has helped a lot. He’s a good spotter and is getting good working on the race car and he’s young and eager so that’s good. Mathew Dufour, another young guy, who is only 13, helps us all week in the shop but is not old enough to get into the pits. He’s a great kid and loves to be around the car and the shop and always puts a smile on our faces.
Boyd B. Harding has supported me for a long time. He buys us some tires and helps out a lot. My brother also supports it a lot and I put a lot into it myself. My wife Dallas never misses a race and my daughter Haley is my biggest fan and she hasn’t missed a race since she was five years old.Robert loves racing and is thankful his family is as crazy about our sport as he is. You can find the Thomlinson clan in the Geary Woods every Saturday night during the racing season!
Wade: You have been racing for three decades and are one of the last drivers on our roster to have raced here on opening night in 1994.
Robert: I figured you might bring that up, but you know what, I still feel pretty good about getting into a race car and I’m still having fun. I do admit it’s a little more difficult now that I’m getting older, but I feel great. It’s a lot harder to win races and get podium finishes than it used to be, but I can still run a hundred or a hundred and fifty laps and get out of the car and feel pretty good. So I’m going to keep doing it as long as I am having fun. I’ve got enough equipment back at the shop to be able to keep doing it for awhile.Robert still enjoys going to the races, meeting the fans and racing his RE/MAX Group Four Realty Pro Stock. He has been at this game a long time and figures he’ll keep racing for awhile yet. Besides that, Hayley won’t let him retire!
Wade: And how do you feel about the future of our sport?
Robert: Long-term I think racing is going to grow. You look at the car count here at Speedway 660. Some nights we’ve got 20 Pro Stocks. That’s a pretty awesome field of cars for a weekly Pro Stock show. And these young guys are pretty serious and I think they are going to be here for the long run. This track is well organized with owners, staff and volunteers and you need that today to be successful. They’ve got a lot of support. I’ve tried to support them since 1994.Robert likes the way Speedway 660 is run. He says our volunteers, staff and owners are all dedicated to providing top notch entertainment to the thousands of fans who come out to the races every year.
Wade: Thanks for doing this Robert and good luck for the rest of the season.
Robert: Thank-you Wade. I just want to wrap this up by thanking all of the great fans and sponsors at Speedway 660. The fans are very knowledgeable about our sport, they love racing and when they pay admission and walk through the gates they make it possible for the track owners and drivers to put on a great show every week. And the track sponsors and individual car sponsors are a big part of our sport too. So I want to thank everyone who makes it possible for us to go racing here at Speedway 660.