by Scott Kindberg
August 27, 2013
No End In Sight
''He doesn't show up to finish second,'' Anderson said. ''That competitiveness he has comes out in competitive situations. When we're not running well, he's not happy. Of course, he doesn't have to tell us that, because we're not happy either.''
Fortunately for Barton, his race team and car owners John and Charlie Lacki, they have had plenty of reasons to smile this spring and summer after Barton collected the SLM point championship at Stateline Speedway for the 10th time in his amazing career. His 1,863 points and three victories placed him in the top spot, ahead of Darrell Bossard of Centerville, Pa., (1,683) and Chris Hackett of Jamestown (1,569).
Oh, did we mention that Barton, an Ashville resident, is two months shy of his 59th birthday? Or, that he's won SLM points titles in four different decades?
''To win the first one (in 1986) was extremely exciting,'' Barton said, ''but I have to admit to you that winning this year was also very exciting. I think it was because of the fact our team has been able to adapt. Racing, like any other sport, changes over the years. The way we were doing things and the way you raced back in 1986 is different than the way you race and the way you set up cars now. That includes driving the cars, so I'm very happy that we've been able to adapt and stay competitive.
''We don't win nearly like we used to, but, occasionally, we slip in there, and that's a good thing.''
Beginning with his first SLM title in 1986, Barton's other points championships at Stateline came in 1987, 1990, 1991, 1993, 1994, 1996, 2000, 2006 and, finally, this year.
''It's the longevity thing,'' Anderson said. ''It's 28 years from one to the other. Twenty-eight years is a long time to be involved in a sport, not to mention being at or near the top of the sport for most of that time. I don't want to say that this record will never be broken, but it's going to be darn hard.''
After Barton's 10 titles, Bobby Schnars is second with eight. Drivers with multiple SLM titles are Dan Armbruster and Squirt Johns with three apiece; and Ron Blackmer, Dutch Davies, Skip Furlow, Rod Maloy, Jay Plyler, Hyle Russell, David Scott, Matt Urban and Johnny Whitehead with two apiece. Sixteen other drivers each have one championship.
''People don't understand,'' Barton said, ''but this is a team-oriented sport. ... A lot of things had to happen for me and our team to get us to this point.''
Leading Barton's team through it all has been crew chief John Lamb of Jamestown.
''I can count on one hand the number of features he's missed in all these years,'' Barton said. ''He's been the main ingredient.''
Barton has also had strong owners during his SLM years, including John Lillie, Jim Greenawalt, Del Seekings and Terry Studd (1985-1992); Ron Nielson (1993-2009); John Kennedy (2010-11) and the Lacki brothers (since 2012).
''The guys that (Barton) races against, in a respectful way, they call him the 'Old Man,''' Anderson said. ''We get teased a lot. Lamb and I are older than Barton and (other drivers) will ask us, 'Who's your sponsor this year? AARP?''
Anderson laughs as he recalls the good-natured by-play.
''We make fun of ourselves that way, too,'' he said. '' ... We kid ourselves when we get in the truck to go to the race (asking), 'Is this the race car truck or the bingo bus?'
''It's all in having the right attitude.''
And Barton's attitude is the same as it was when he slipped in behind the wheel for his first SLM nearly three decades ago. He just has to approach races a little differently than he did in his early 30s.
''What happens, over time, is your reflexes - because of the age process - are naturally going to diminish,'' Barton said. ''Where the reflexes have diminished, I'd like to think that after almost 30 years of driving late models that the experience you get overrules the reflexes.
''For example, when there's an opening, back in 1986 I would have put my car in that opening, knowing full well that I had complete ability to back myself up or get myself out of a jam. Now, when that same opening opens up, I say to myself, 'Oh no you don't. I've been there before and that won't be good.'''
But Barton and his crew have been more than good in the SLM class for more than a generation, which led Anderson, yet again, to poke good-natured fun at himself and his racing buddies.
''I don't know how serious he was, but our car owner, John Lacki, claims to be interested in buying a used CARTS bus, because he thought it would be a good tool vehicle. He also said he wouldn't have to take the name off the bus.''
For the second time, Anderson couldn't contain his laughter.
''CART,'' he mused at the acronym. ''Chautauqua's Ancient Racing Team.''