by Scott Kindberg
October 22, 2019
Dick Barton was nervous.
Check that. He was very nervous.
I noticed it immediately when Randy Anderson and I arrived at Barton’s Ashville home to pick him up one late afternoon in June. The three of us were headed to the Norden Club steak fry at the Den Adelsman’s Klub in Gerry where Barton, the legendary dirt-track race car driver, was going to be the featured speaker.
The plan was to enjoy some hors d’oeuvres and a filet mignon dinner with about 100 club members of Scandianvian descent and their guests. My post-dinner role was to interview Barton about his extensive racing accomplishments that dated back more than four decades. As I quickly learned, however, he would have much rather made split-second decisions behind the wheel of his late model than hold a microphone in his hand and talk about himself.
“I don’t like to toot my own horn,” he said.
Fact is, Barton has never been comfortable gabbing about his prowess on the dirt track, deferring at every turn to his race team for his success. By the time we were through with our 30-minute conversation that evening and after he had answered a bunch of questions from the audience, Barton had maneuvered through it all with ease, just like he’s done on Saturday and Sunday nights for two-thirds of his life.
And, believe it or not, the 65-year-old Falconer native, who hasn’t driven competitively since 2014, is still adding to his bulging resume.
According to an announcement released over the weekend by the Board of Trustees and the voting members of the National Dirt Late Model Hall Fame, Barton will be part of the Class of 2020, one of five drivers and three contributors who will be honored in August in Union, Kentucky.
Barton got the news via phone call last Wednesday, which just happened to be his birthday.
“You could say I got emotional,” Barton said as he stood in the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame in Jamestown on Monday afternoon. As he spoke, he was just a short walk from where he is immortalized in the CSHOF’s Hall of Honor as a member of the Class of 2003.
“The (Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame induction), in and of itself, was overwhelming,” he said, “but now to be recognized nationally is just a huge thing, and I’m pretty humbled. … It’s every racer’s dream. All you ever want, at the end of the day, is for someone to say you were pretty good at this. We were pretty good at this. Our team was pretty good at this. … I’m taken aback by the fact that normally these kinds of honors are for the traveling people. We were just doing it as a hobby.”
How good were Barton and crew as they pursued their “hobby?”
Along the way, Barton raced to 47 career track and series titles and reigns as the winningest driver at Stateline; and scored more than 225 career feature victories at 14 tracks in four states, including STARS (1991) and World of Outlaws (2006) victories at Stateline, where he was a 10-time champion.
Barton’s heyday came driving The Bolt Place-sponsored No. 28B, owned by Ron Nielson, that he drove to 172 victories from 1993-2009. His 80th career Stateline win in 2014 (at age 59) broke the 79-victory mark of Bobby Schnars.
Barton’s non-Stateline victories included 1996’s Budweiser 101 at Eriez Speedway in Hammett, Pennsylvania; 2003’s Fall Classic at Raceway 7 in Conneaut, Ohio; 1994’s Race of Champions at Hagerstown (Maryland) Speedway; and 2002’s MACS Fall Fest Challenger Raceway in Kent, Pennsylvania, his richest win at $15,000.
“It’s like my career has come full circle,” Barton said. “All you ever want is to be remembered. … I’ve been very lucky. If you surround yourself with capable people, the chances are you’re going to get good results.”
Anderson learned of his friend’s National Dirt Late Model Hall Fame inclusion when a representative of the organization called him last week.
“I was like speechless, because it’s really hard to think your team is considered in the same league as the other great inductees,” Anderson said.
Maybe, just maybe, the victories and the honors that have come with it have had to do with the fact that Barton always showed up for work.
“He never missed a race in 42 years,” Anderson said. “I’m going to say that’s at least 1,500 races. He just didn’t miss. He had a cast on his arm (once) and he it put on so he would still be able to hold the (steering) wheel.”
And then there was the night that Barton raced at Stateline hours after attending his father Clarence’s funeral. It was in the early years of Barton’s career and he knew his dad, who was instrumental in getting him into racing in the first place, would have wanted his son at the track.
“That’s what drove me,” Barton said. “These guys work on a race car all week long, When they said, ‘We’re going to some place,’ who am I to say no. My part was very easy.”
So for 40 years, Barton and crew made it look easy, even if it really wasn’t. And by next August he and his crew will show up in Union, Kentucky, which is located about 75 miles from Louisville, for a special recognition of a special career.
“II think it’s safe to say from the old Barton race team that we’ll be traveling to Kentucky for this event,” Anderson said. “It’s people working together for a greater cause than individual glory. It’s the truth. It’s how we operated.”