OXFORD — He’s one of stock car racing’s most well known and respected personalities, and he always wanted to make a trip to the Oxford 250.
On Sunday, he knocked Maine’s short track classic off his bucket list.
Former NASCAR public relations guru and current director the Alan Kulwicki Driver Development Program (KDDP) Tom ‘TR’ Roberts was in western Maine to take in one of short-track racing’s crown jewels, and had the time of his life.
“Events like the Oxford 250 are great for the sport,” Roberts said. “I’ve always known about this great race but never had the opportunity to attend before now. I’m impressed with the caliber of teams, the number of teams and the incredible support from these avid fans. I’m having a fantastic time.”
Roberts first hit the national radar as the PR director for NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Allison. When he speaks about the most famous member of the famed “Alabama Gang,” his eyes get glassy.
“I learned so much from that man it is hard to describe,” Roberts added. “Bobby and Judy treated me like family from day one. My time with him was priceless, and it helped my career immensely. I can’t thank him enough for all he did for me.”
Roberts’ relationship with the late Alan Kulwicki, the 1992 NASCAR Winston Cup champion from Wisconsin, dates back to the late 1980s.
“I was working at the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway in Tennessee, and we hosted two ASA races per year,” Roberts said. “I was out with ASA tour director Rex Robbins one night, and he told me about this guy named Alan Kulwicki, and how he had an engineering degree and was pretty smart.”
When Roberts went to see the man race, he almost couldn’t believe his eyes.
“That man was in the car, out of the car, working on the setup, doing just about everything himself and doing it extremely well,” Roberts said. “I went back to my office and wrote a press release about him, and I think the headline was something like, ‘Alan Kulwicki, soon to be a household name.’
“It got published by all the active racing trade papers at the time, and got good play. Shortly after, Alan called me and asked me why I did it. I explained that it was my job to promote the sport and the race. He liked what I did, and we ended up having a long meeting which led to an incredible friendship.”
These days, Roberts spends his time with a labor of love. The KDDP recognizes aspiring short-track talent across the country, offering support in a variety of ways. Jay’s Dave Farrington has been part of the program, as is rising New Hampshire-based star Derek Griffith.
Roberts is enjoying the role.
“I have to say I’m enjoying my travels across America meeting with these drivers and their families as much if not more than my 29 full-time years in NASCAR. They work hard to succeed, represent their sponsors well and promote the sport. We call it “Racing for Alan,” and it means the world to me.”
Oxford 250 coverage