fter a two year stint of driving the legendary No. 18, Hunter Robbins and Ronnie Sanders have parted ways and it appears that one of the most legendary figures in the history of Super Late Model racing is taking a sabbatical from the sport.
Sanders announced that his Super Late Model was for sale over the weekend and has tabbed Korey Ruble to drive his Pro Late Model in select events at Opp and Montgomery in the interim. Sanders is a former Snowball Derby champion (1977) and long-time All-Pro Series veteran but has found himself disenchanted with the current state of Late Model racing and the Southern Super Series.
“There’s nothing worth running in Super Late Models right now,” Sanders told Short Track Scene on Monday afternoon. “The Southern Super Series isn’t worth running and it’s much worse now that they’ve formed the series. I wish they would work harder to find a sponsor because the purses just aren’t worth chasing right now.”
Sanders and Robbins first paired up full-time in 2013 and chased the SSS championship. The 2007 Snowflake 100 winner finished fifth overall in the standings with nine top-10s and a pole in 13 starts.
Robbins called the decision to split from Sanders a mutual one as the 23-year-old is now focused on graduating Auburn University in August. He plans to race in the next two SSS events at Montgomery and Gresham for his own team (ironically also the No. 18) and would like to finish the season should he find the necessary funding.
“It was definitely a mutual deal,” Robbins said. “He’s been an inspirational figure to me and I called him two years ago asking for a ride and we’ve been race-by-race ever since. We never had a contract and we jumped into the Southern Super Series when that deal was formed last year.
“We had some really good cars and but just as much bad luck but this will give me chance to get settled and focused on the next stage of my life after school.”
Robbins was leading on the last lap of the 2012 SuperSeal 150 at Mobile International Speedway, a $10,000-to-win race but tangled with eventual winner Jeff Choquette off the exit of Turn 4. He was also leading the Rattler 250 in March with 17 laps remaining but spun under eventual winner Casey Roderick.
That’s pretty much how the Robbins, Sanders pairing went over the past two seasons.
“I really like Hunter,” Sanders said of his latest protégé. “But those last 10 laps … It seemed like every race something got us in those last 10 laps and so I just decided that I had to go and do something different.”
Sanders is a fierce competitor who is not accustomed to losing, be it as a driver or as a car owner. When paired with driver Bubba Pollard from 2009-2012, the No. 18 was the winningest Super Late Model entry in the country, winning over 30 feature events during that span.
His newest driver, Ruble, doesn’t currently plan to replace Robbins in the Southern Super Series full-time but does expect Sanders to ultimately keep his machine and return to the game just based on his driven personality.
“The Southern Super Series is really competitive,” Ruble said. “It’s just a hard tour to run and costs a lot of money. That’s especially true when you compare what you put into it to what you get back for just a third or fourth place run — and you have to be really good to run third or fourth.
“So I think a lot of that has been his frustration. But I wouldn’t count Ronnie Sanders out by any means as far as him potentially wanting to sell or get out.”
Ruble — a contender in the old GAS Series that pre-dated the SSS — says he is “pumped up” to drive for Sanders because he is looking forward to having the chance to prove himself against the some of the elite talent that races in the Southeast.
“I’ve got to where I want to focus on trying to become a standout in Super Late Models beyond the Pro Lates,” Ruble said. “I have a job as an engineer and that certainly takes up a lot of my time but I’ve always wanted to be in the Super Late ranks and driving for Ronnie provides that opportunity.”
Lastly, Sanders said he’s open to hosting Ruble in the Southern Super Series but only if he brings some money or sponsorship to the table.
“It’s going to take bringing a little bit of money,” Sanders said. “I still enjoy racing but it just doesn’t make a lot of sense with the way things are right now.”
The next Southern Super Series event is the Yellowhammer 125 this Saturday night at Montgomery Motor Speedway. Augie Grill is the defending winner.