HOUSE SPRINGS, Missouri — Retired from a long military service, Dennis Roberts is enjoying a racing career that started nearly 50 years ago.
The Army veteran and International Hot Rod Association (IHRA) member is going strong at 66 years old behind the wheel of his 1980 Chevrolet Malibu station wagon.
Roberts started out racing a 1970 Plymouth Barracuda with a 440 cubic-inch engine and a hemi 4-speed transmission in the Super Stock F class at Speeds Dragstrip in Southern Indiana, a track under the old AHRA sanction.
When he hears the word’s “no prep” when describing today’s races, Roberts laughs. He thinks back about racing on one track which he recalled had more dirt on the track than in the pits.
Certainly, racing has changed over the years, but a constant has been the station wagon, a surprise from his wife that he has owned since 1996. However, the vehicle needed a lot of work when it came home.
“When she drove up in the driveway, you could dig a potato patch with it,” he said. “It was dragging on the ground. Since I was an IHRA supporter, I knew there was an IHRA national event coming up in Louisville, I wanted to build it as a Pure Stocker. We spent about six weeks building it and we’ve raced it ever since.”
Of course, his racing was halted for times over a 30-year Army career. He served in the infantry before being chosen to serve as a US Army Inspector General Non Commissioned Officer (NCO). The Kentucky native was assigned to the Joint Forces Headquarters in the racing hotbed of Indianapolis.
The Camby, Indiana resident has accumulated dozens of bracket-racing wins over the years with his car now eligible to compete in the IHRA Summit SuperSeries in the Sportsman class.
He has competed at different IHRA tracks in the Hoosier State and his native Bluegrass State including the scenic London Dragway. He also likes Central Illinois Dragway, although his favorite track of all is Buffalo Valley Dragway in Tennessee.
Roberts loves the competition from different tracks and racing in the IHRA. With the new IHRA leadership, he’s excited about the future of the sport and the future of his long racing career.