by Scott Eddy
May 6, 2010
Veteran Barton Returns To His Roots For New Season
Signs commemorating dirt track victories from across the tri-state area adorn the shop which houses Dick Barton’s super late model. Many of them are in the form of ceremonial checks from nights across the past two and a half decades of competition – physical proof of Barton’s team running away with the prize money and checkered flags.While many of those wins came with Barton behind the wheel of the No. 28B fielded by former owner Ron Nielson, the magic on the dirt truly began years prior, driving the No. 14B.
That same shop where Barton and his team work late into the night now houses a car that’s likely to bring back many fond memories not just for the driver and crew but also many local race fans.
RETURN OF NO. 14B
For the first time in 17 years, Barton is back behind the wheel of the No. 14B, sporting a similar black and white paint scheme to the one the Ashville driver ran during the 1990 season. Though now running with the backing of an Arizona businessman, the faces on the team are the same as those who helped Barton during his former Race Team 14 days – Randy Anderson, Greg Farrar, John Lamb, Warren McDonald, and Del Seekings along with an addition to the crew from the 80’s and 90’s, Ed Green.
When Nielson decided to retire from racing following the 2009 season, Barton contemplated retirement himself. With no deal lined up late in the winter, it looked as though Barton, who has notched 232 feature wins and 541 top-three finishes in over 1,300 super late model starts, might be on the sidelines for the first time in more than three decades.
“We had nothing lined up,” Barton said. “I had almost come to the conclusion that nothing was going to take shape.”
A trip to Florida partnered Barton with long-time acquaintance John Kennedy, a resident of Scottsdale, Ariz. The two men had known each other going back to the start of Barton’s career – while helping his uncle Rod on his race car more than 30 years ago, Barton met Kennedy, the son of a man who worked on that team. The two got to talking about the situation Nielson’s retirement had left for Barton and the talk of forming an alliance began.
“He alluded to the fact that he’d always wanted to own a race car and might be willing to do something with us,” Barton said. “At the time I thought it was just talk. But the next day, sure enough, he came to me and told me he was serious.”
WRINKLES IN THE PROCESS
Getting a race team ready to run on such short notice wasn’t as easy as just picking up an interested owner, though. Nielson had offered Barton his equipment at a reduced cost when he decided to retire, but by the time the deal with Kennedy came together, Nielson’s had already been sold, adding a wrinkle in the process.
“I thought maybe the deal was over,” Barton said, “but Mr. Kennedy said to look around for another operation we could buy. We needed a car; we needed an engine; we needed extra wheels and all the other things necessary for us to go racing. All I had was a garage and a car hauler.”
After searching the Internet, Barton came across a man in Belfast, NY who was selling his late model operation and was able to purchase almost everything needed to get back to the track. Still, with the season quickly approaching, the crew was forced to do the necessary preparation work in a fraction of the time normally taken to get a car ready to race.
“The guys did in six weeks what normally takes six months to do,” Barton said. “We got into this at the 11th hour and the crew did a full-court press to get it ready to go.”
During the preparation, the team made the decision to shift back to the old No. 14B and the throwback paint scheme. With the original No. 14B, Barton took numerous race wins and several track championships at Stateline and Eriez Speedways among other tracks. The old No. 14B hit its peak in 1991, taking to the track 66 times with 54 top-ten finishes. The team disbanded after the 1992 season due to a lack of funding. Soon after Barton and his team joined forces with Pennsylvania businessman Nielson, who fielded the black and orange No. 28 in honor of his favorite NASCAR driver, the late Davey Allison.
The opportunity to race for Nielson for nearly two decades in one which Barton is forever grateful.
“What a wonderful 17 years it has been with Mr. Nielson,” he said. “He gave me excellent equipment. We have the utmost respect and admiration for him and his family.”
Moving back to the No. 14 brings things full circle for Barton, going back to the number he used on his sportsman car and dating all the way back to his time in go-karts as a boy.
“We sat down and thought about it and decided it would be nice to do a throwback,” he said. “There’s a number of people who have commented favorably. It makes me smile because this was my number from many years gone by.”
Kennedy Partners of Phoenix, Ariz., Shawbucks, Lias Tire, Lamb Heating and Cooling, Qwik Lube Oil & Filter and Phil Shaw Racing Carbs sponsor the team. The return to the track might never have happened, though, if not for the desire the entire team had to keep racing.
“One of the underlying factors for this thing taking shape was that the team desperately wanted to keep racing,” Barton said. “If my guys would have wanted to retire, it would have been easy to get on my horse and ride off into the sunset. We accomplished more than I’d ever imagined in my wildest dreams.”
But the desire to race still burns within the crew and Barton.
“The juices are still flowing,” he emphasized. “I’m still very competitive in everything I do. I still have a burning desire to win.”
The season will bring a full schedule at Stateline, along with selected events at Eriez, Raceway 7, Little Valley and McKean County speedways. With the way things fell into place to bring back a hint of where it all began for Barton and the No. 14B team, it might be easy to call it fate.
“You wonder,” he said, “but you never know what the racing gods have in store for you. The only thing I know for sure is the success I have enjoyed in my career is totally because I’ve surrounded myself with very good people. And those people are still with me.
“I know they still have the desire and the ability,” he said. “Because they are working as hard as they are, I’m not going to let them down on my end.”