The Post-Journal

Barton Can't Stand To Lose And He Rarely Does

Dick Barton waiting to race, 2004.
Dick Barton waiting to race, 2004.

It happens all the time and it goes something like this:

The long night of working in the garage is over and the crew of the No. 28B car file out to the parking lot, each one fiddling with their keys, casually opening their car doors and sliding into the driver's seat to begin the trip home.

But before John Lamb, Jim Seely, Warren McDonald, Del Seekings, Randy Anderson, and Greg Farrar can even click their seatbelts in place, Dick Barton, the local dirt-track racing legend is gone, leaving them in his figurative dust.

"He's hyper-competitive," said Anderson a member of Barton's crew for 20 years. "He can't stand to lose. I don't care what it is. We'll leave the garage at the end of the night and he wants to be the first in the car and the first out of the parking lot. He's just competitive in everything he does."

Cards, racquetball, golf, it doesn't matter.

"He's good at all that stuff because he can't stand to lose," said Anderson.

Oh, did we mention he's more than a little competitive behind the wheel of the Ron Nielson-owned Bolt Place/Raceway 7 No. 28B?

When Barton was growing up, he'd sit in the bleachers at Stateline Speedway virtually every Saturday night from April to Labor Day.

It was there that he would watch his heroes - guys like Bobby Schnars, Squirt Johns, Jay Plyler, Skip Furlow and Ron Blackmer - battle it out in the feature races while dreaming about one day doing the same.

Barton after 200th late model feature win.
left to right: Warren McDonald (crewman), Barton, Ron Nielson and daughter
Melody Fitch (car owners) after 200th late model feature win.

But, Really, how many times do kids fantasize about being just like their athletic heroes and then actually accomplish it when they become adults?

Less than one percent?

That hardly deterred Barton, the kid from Falconer, who learned to go-cart race with his father, Clarence, and later built his first car with his uncle Rod, who raced sportsman cars at Stateline.

"Rod showed me what it took to successfully race a car," Barton said of his uncle. "And that meant everything, from the hard work ethic all the way to on-the-track performance."

Fast-forward more than three decades, including the last 20 as the premier Super Late Model driver in the tri-state area. During that span, he has won 200 SLM feature races, the milestone 200th coming last Saturday at Stateline. The win was his 65th on the Busti track since he entered the SLM class in 1985.

"I never, in my wildest dreams, ever imagined that the young kids today would look up to me in the same light as my heroes," said Barton. "I just secretly hoped, some how, some way, I could maybe get out there and race."

Man, has he ever.

Beginning with his first feature win on July 13, 1985 at Stateline, Barton won 60 late model features in the Miller American/NAPA No. 14B before assuming the seat in the 28B in 1993. Since then he has visited victory lane 140 times in Nielson's familiar black-and-orange Fords.

Barton's first late model, 1985.
Barton's first late model, 1985.

"To get to 200, that's huge," said Anderson, who is also an historian on local racing. "We can't figure that anyone else has done that around here. There're probably some people who have won 200 races, but not just in the top division. To do 200 in the premier division is really pretty special."

Along the way, there have been plenty of memorable races. Barton recalls one at Stateline in 1988 where he smashed up the car pretty badly during qualifying and had less than an hour to get it back in shape for the feature.

"We basically had to rebuild a race car," Barton said.

So with some help from people who came out of the stands, Barton's crew got the car put together and Barton 'slowly started picking cars off and with a few laps top go I took the lead and ended up winning."

Anderson recalls the night, also at Stateline, in 1991, when Barton claimed a winning purse of $10,000.

"That was a ton of money at the time," Anderson said. "Fran Seamens, the promoter, paid us in cash. He brought us over a grocery bag. The biggest bill may have been a $50. I remember the guy that owned the car at the time took the bag home, emptied it on his bed, and rolled in it."

Barton at speed, 2004.
Barton at speed, 2004.

The Nielson team has been rolling in the victories and the associated prize money almost from the start, compiling wins at 13 different tracks the last 21 seasons. In addition to the 65 wins at Stateline, Barton has won 41 at Eriez (PA) Speedway, 31 at Raceway 7 (OH), 23 at McKean (PA) County, 13 at Lernerville (PA), 7 at Sharon (OH), 6 at Little Valley (NY), 5 at Tri-City (PA), 3 at Hagerstown (MD), 2 each at Challenger (PA) and Freedom (NY), and 1 each at Mercer (PA) and Woodhull (NY).

"It's one thing to get good at your home track, but quite another thing to take the show on the road and be able to win at other places," Anderson said. "That's what we're proud of, going to other tracks and being competitive."

Barton's crew of Lamb, Seely, Anderson, McDonald, Seekings and Farrar pour their hearts into putting together the best racecar possible each week. When added together, their combined experience is about 150 years.

"Whenever I've been given the chance to say anything, I make sure people know and recognize the fact that it isn't just me," Barton said. "All I do is turn left. I've got the easy part of the whole job. What people, I think, don't realize is the hours and hours of work that goes into these things. Their (the crew's) satisfaction is seeing the car go good."

Barton has also received plenty of support from his sponsors: The Bolt Place (Meadville, PA), Raceway 7 (Conneaut, OH), Coors Light (Glenwood Beer Distributors, Erie, PA), Qwik Lube (Jamestown), Shawbucks (Jamestown), Lamb Heating and Cooling (Jamestown), and Phil Shaw Race Carbs (Jamestown).

Now 50, Barton has been racing, beginning with go-carts as a 12-year-old, for 38 years. Although he's likely the oldest driver in the area, he shows no signs of slowing down.

"He doesn't want to be known as the old man," Anderson said. "He wants to be known as the guy to beat. Age means nothing to him."

Added Barton, "The long and short of it is I'll keep going as long as the guys want to do it. I genuinely enjoy it. Right now I see absolutely no reason that things will change."

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