BY SOUZA MEDIA/KYLE SOUZA
SEEKONK, Mass. -- If you would have asked Brian Robie six years ago to give you a resume with his racing experience as a driver, it would have been flat empty. Fast-forward those six years and Robie has one of the most impressive driving resumes of any asphalt Modified competitor in New England.
But many don’t know his story. Robie didn’t grow up running go-karts, quarter midgets, Street Stocks, or anything else in the racing world. He simply attended a few races as a kid, and eventually decided he just wanted to jump into it as a driver with zero experience. Which car did he pick? The open-wheel, ground-pounding Modified -- one of the most difficult for any driver -- nevermind someone with no laps.
“I had one uncle that raced but he retired when I was about four-years-old and I went a few times as a kid, but nothing really involved,” Robie said. “I decided I wanted to go racing, built a Modified with the help of Bobby Turner, and we went to Monadnock Speedway and got destroyed right away and lapped the first 10 or so races. I had always seen Modifieds, maybe having gone to about 10 races. I just wanted to race the Modified. None of my immediate family is even into cars. Just me.”
Although he went to Victory Lane prior to last year, the 2020 season was everything any race car driver could imagine for Robie. He won three track championships in the Crate Modified division -- one each at Monadnock Speedway, Claremont Motorsports Park and Hudson Speedway, and finished fifth in the NASCAR Division I National Championship battle. He also won the NASCAR State Championship in New Hampshire.
“Last year we had high ambitions of chasing the point championships, we wanted the state championship -- that was the goal and I kind of put the Tour Modified stuff as second priority,” Robie said. “Everything more or less played into our hands. With COVID, it took away a lot of the Tour races that were scheduled and it made it easier to focus on the Crate Modifieds. The delay in the schedule made it so I could go through and do some extra preparation work on the cars that I wouldn’t have been able to do. We were ready to go out of the box, and everything rolled well throughout the year.”
With limited previous experience in the Tour Modified world prior to the last year, Robie took the trip to Stafford Motor Speedway last fall to compete with the Tri Track Open Modified Series presented by All Phases Renovations. He followed it up by visiting New Smyrna Speedway for the annual World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing this February, where he finished 20th in the point standings against nearly 50 cars in one of the most competitive fields the track has ever seen.
Now, Robie is back home -- preparing for the season -- where he plans to run all six Tri Track Open Modified Series presented by All Phases Renovations events. He will also compete in the Crate Modified division again -- hoping to race as much as possible -- with sights set on the State Championship, NASCAR National Title, and the newly-formed NASCAR Regional Championship, if possible. A competitive chase of a few more track championships is also in the realm of possibility, but he’s going to take it race-by-race and see what happens. He’d like to focus a bit more on the Tour-Type Modified world in 2021.
“All of the Tri Track races, not even a question,” Robie said. “As of right now I have 45 races on the schedule, without a few of the weekly races, and without Stafford and Thompson events. I have a few Race of Champions Modified Series races and Modified Racing Series events… it will be busy.”
Robie does have limited experience with Tri Track previously, including what was his first Tour-Type Modified race back in 2017 -- the SBM Classic at Star Speedway. Known as one of the top Tri Track races of each season, the SBM includes the top talent in Modifieds for top dollars, and it was a bit of a daunting task for a debut.
“I had no idea, really, what I was doing. I didn’t really even know how to measure and mount tires to the level that I should have known back then,” Robie said. “I had a borrowed motor, with a 2008 Troyer in the SBM, never even had been on the track at Star Speedway. I was a little fish in the ocean -- not even a big pond. I beat a guy like Dwight Jarvis. I was passing guys during the race that I didn’t even think I would have had the chance to race against in my life, nevermind beat.”
Even though he has limited driving experience in a Tour Modified, his driving in the Crate Modified division speaks for itself, with his winning record. Robie has become the top contender at most New Hampshire race tracks where the division runs. And he’s excited about the potential he might have going forward.
“Definitely some satisfaction, but it comes with a bit of humility, it’s not lost on me, most people don’t get to that point after 20 years, nevermind five with no background in the sport,” Robie said. “The big satisfaction is that people don’t even know that I don’t have the experience. People think that I raced karts or something in another division. Some of these people I race against don’t even know it. The thing that makes me feel really good about the past year is we accomplished everything we accomplished and we still have more left on the table. I’m not doing everything as perfectly as I could do. As good as we were last year, I know I can be better.”
Outside of driving, Robie has recent experience as a crew member for five-time Tri Track champion Matt Hirschman -- known as one of the most detail-oriented and successful drivers in the current asphalt Modified world. Recognized as “Big Money”, Hirschman is no stranger to Victory Lane, and Robie continues to learn from him. Robie also had experience working with Bobby Turner, a man who needs no introduction to those who know Modified history. Turner won the pole for the inaugural Spring Sizzler at Stafford Motor Speedway, and raced for years. He has been an instrumental part of getting Robbie’s career off the ground running, however, Turner passed away in March.
“I started working on the crew for Hirschman and I was understanding what they do, how they do it and why they were doing it -- it really started to help me pick-up my own game,” Robie said. “To say who is most instrumental is tough, but Matt has been huge. Everyone thinks he has the perfect setup, the golden key, and there’s even rumors that he sets the cars up for me… I just laugh at all of it. Anyone that looks at our stuff would notice there is nothing fancy, but it’s all consistent. Matt is really precise on what he does, and that’s kind of what I strive towards. I still have a lot to go to close-in on him, but he sets the gold standard. Bobby Turner, he came from that generation where he never raced a production chassis -- every car he’d ever driven, he built himself. He helped coach me on what to do and was still acting as a team advisor.”
Robie recognizes the changing environment, and knows there will forever be a learning curve for him in the Tour-Type Modified ranks. But he’s ready to finish the curve quickly.
“Going around to the new tracks and racing against new drivers is where I get the enjoyment, and I’m not really happy unless I’m progressing,” Robie said. “I want to race against the best of the best every year. Everything about Tour-Type Modified racing is different with the strategy, driving -- it’s all different. It’s essentially the same car as a Crate Modified, but two completely different ideas.”
Robie feels like he is ready to win.
“Without a doubt,” he said. “I’m right at the point where I am ready to say that. I’ve had podiums, seconds, thirds, everything except a first. I need to have the strategy and everything play into my hands, but I know I can pull it off. It’s tough. I feel like we have the potential, and we are probably still the dark-horse, but feel like we need to get it done. I have a little bit of pressure on myself to accomplish it.”
Robie looks forward to competing with Tri Track twice at Monadnock Speedway (May 1 and August 14), twice at Star Speedway (May 22 and July 24) and twice at Seekonk Speedway, and says he enjoys all three tracks. At Monadnock, he will run both the Crate Modified and the Tri Track car in the same night. He has sponsor support from RHR Construction, Boucher Acoustic, Maurice Enterprises, Andy’s Speed Shop, and more.
“I went into Claremont Motorsports Park for the first time with my Crate Modified and walked in the pits a few years ago and didn’t know anyone in there. I’m pretty happy with where we’ve been since then,” Robie said. “I’m grateful, but still want more. There are a lot of people that think it’s easy, but it’s not an easy task. I still have improvement to make. I enjoy Tour racing because there is so much more strategy in it. Both the Crate Modified and the Tri Track car, they each present their own attractions. I’m just enjoying racing. I just have to thank the crew members, sponsors, family and everyone that has supported me along the way.”
Registration for the 2021 Tri Track Open Modified Seri presented by All Phases Renovations season is open, and teams can register at TriTrackModifieds.com/team-info. Teams have the option to either sign-up for the whole season or just one single race.
For more information on the Tri Track Open Modified Series, visit TriTrackModifieds.com and follow the series on social media. For more information Souza Media, visit kylesouza.com and follow Souza Media on Facebook.