GAYLORD, Mich. — With more than two decades of dirt-late-model competition under his belt, Curtis Roberts is considered a veteran by most standards. His No. 9r is frequently found in victory lane at tracks throughout Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Ohio.
The mild-mannered Coleman, Mich., driver celebrates his 25th season behind the wheel this year, but his introduction to the sport came much earlier, “Racing’s been in our family for quite some time. My father Jim raced forever,” Roberts said.
Roberts took over the No. 9 machine in 1986, a young 18-year-old looking to walk in his father and Uncle Donnie’s footsteps while also enjoying the thrill and adrenaline rush that can only come from pure horsepower.
Over the years Roberts has definitely made a name for himself in the Midwest; capturing wins at all but one dirt track in the state of Michigan, that being Hartford Motor Speedway. The big half-mile has proved to be a nemesis for Roberts, one he sincerely hopes to conquer in 2011. “That’s a major goal for this year, to get a main event win at Hartford and then I can at least say I have won everywhere in the state.”
In his second season teamed with SMR Racing and car owner Sean Nagy, that goal is certainly an achievable one. At the start of 2010 Roberts fully expected a year of team building and the struggles that typically accompany it, “There were a lot of obstacles we thought we would have to overcome,” he said. “New people getting together, working together and getting to know each other, but it actually worked out real well, with everyone’s personalities really coming together. 2010 was a very successful season on the track and off of it as well.”
Having a car owner allowed Roberts the opportunity to change his whole racing program; instead of a limited schedule centered around Michigan 2010 saw Roberts running events throughout the Midwest and chasing the American Late Model Series (ALMS) title.
For most of the season the No. 9r stayed atop the leader board in series points, but a season finale engine failure knocked Roberts to second after the checkered flag waved, only five points out of first.
A second-place points finish was more than the team could’ve hoped for at the seasons onset, but one couldn’t help but be dissatisfied after coming so close, “I had never ran for a championship until last year with ALMS. It was disappointing but that’s just racing, you have to take the good with the bad. It just wasn’t meant to be and we have 2011 to do even better.”
Running for SMR racing has been a blessing for Roberts. “It changed everything for the better. It’s definitely a lot different and Sean is a great guy and a great guy to drive for,” Roberts said. “He’s pretty much given me free reign of everything in regards to the day-to-day stuff as well as at the track.”
2010 saw a busy schedule for the No.9R team, running 44 races; and this year will be much the same with nearly 50 events on the schedule, including several UMP Summer National shows as well as the ALMS tour.
SMR Racing is in for a busy summer, but one that Curtis said will be, “Filled with making memories,” he added. “At least that’s what I keep telling my wife Wendy, but honestly I have so many memories and they are all good. It’s just the camaraderie, meeting new people, and the interactions with others, there are as many memories off the track as on it.”
In addition to Roberts keeping his own business running smoothly; an automotive shop in Coleman aptly named Roberts Auto Enterprise, which specializes in everything automotive from used parts sales, repairs, and a full-service body shop, the No.9 team also has some ambitious goals for 2011.
“I would like to get a Summer Nationals victory and we have set a team goal of getting 10 victories this year.”
With two wins already to his credit thus far in ’11, Roberts and SMR Racing are already well on their way to realizing those goals.