Barnes heads to asphalt with momentum


November 26, 1995|By Stanley Dillon | Stanley Dillon,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Matt Barnes, 23, of Westminster is coming off the best season of his career. Now he is preparing for next season, which will take him to a new level of stock car racing.

After four years of racing in the four-cylinder stock division on the clay ovals at Trail-Way, Potomac and Lincoln speedways, Barnes is anxious to move onto asphalt racing with NASCAR.

In January, Barnes plans on joining his older brother, Steve, at Daytona International Speedway for the rookie evaluation that's required for the Goody's Dash Series.

While Steve is looking to race the Goody's 200 in February and select races in the series during the year, Matt will be looking to gain experience on the 2.5-mile super speedway and serve as back-up driver for his brother.

After a couple years of racing experience on the asphalt tracks at Southside and Manassas in Virginia, Matt will try the 12-race NASCAR Goody's Series.

Earlier this month, after the racing season was over at Trail-Way Speedway, Matt got his first experience racing on asphalt in Steve's Dash car.

"It was different. It was a lot different going into the turns. You have to stage the car so it doesn't get out from underneath of you," said Matt about his practice run on the paved 5/8 -mile Jennerstown (Pa.) Speedway. "It's a lot faster. It took me a few laps to get used to it."

While the Goody's Dash Chevrolet Cavalier and the Ford Pinto that Matt races locally are both powered by four-cylinder engines, the similarity ends there. The cars are totally different. Racing on asphalt requires different tires, chassis components, set-up and driving.

The Dash Series car is capable of reaching 140 mph on the long straightaways on the super speedway while the dirt car stays in second gear on the short dirt ovals with 70 mph the top speed.

This past year was a good one for Matt. He had his best year in total wins with four and was on top in points at Trail-Way most of the year. Right from opening day, Matt showed he was going to be one of the top competitors. He was on top of the standings most of the year, swapping the top spot a couple of times with Gary Robey.

In oval track racing, the top point man is usually handicapped toward the rear of the field. But that didn't stop Matt, each week he worked his way through the field for top five finishes and four feature wins.

The point battle in the four-cylinder division turned out to be one of the tightest in Trail-Way's history as it wound down to the final race. The championship was there for Barnes to win, but he never got a real chance to claim it.

"I had a good chance to win," said Barnes. "But I got knocked out before the green flag was waved. I was really upset. More for my crew than myself."

Whether it was a racing accident or not, there are still traces of bitterness in Matt's voice as he spoke about the incident. Although the Barnes were already making plans to start traveling to other tracks, the last race probably hastened their decision. All three of their cars are up for sale.

Matt became involved in racing while he was a senior at Westminster High School. He helped work on Steve's car and two years later had his own Ford Pinto to drive.

"My brother almost ran over me in the pit area one night," said Steve. "Right then I decided to drive because I felt it would be safer in the car then in the pits."

Together, the two brothers formed one of the most potent four-cylinder teams in the area. A couple of years ago, they added another car for Craig Mann of Westminster to drive. It was not unusual to see all three cars finish in the top 10 on any given night.

Car show scheduled

The annual Street Cars of Desire Car Show will be next weekend in the Cow Palace at the Timonium Fairgrounds. Marris German of Westminster has been the show organizer and each year more than $25,000 in proceeds from the show has gone to local charities.

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