Chuck Barber still having fun on the ovals

By Phil Whipple, Staff Writer. Photo By: Rachel Plant 

ROBSTOWN, Texas — When the Texas Dirt Truck Series was first conceived back in late 2018, a conversation was held between the two men who created it as to what type of racers it would draw. The concept right from the start was to have an affordable tour, where fun was high and stress was low.

Since then, the series, now led by the brother team of Mike and Bo Tracy, has attracted a variety of new racers. One family-based race team now part of the mix is the trio of Chuck, Jarrett and Jennie Barber. This father, son and daughter team are first class folks, and are a true asset to the series.

For 63-year-old Chuck, who’s been racing since he was 25, the reward and enjoyment these days comes in two forms; seeing his kids compete and have fun, and watching the truck series grow and expand.

“This series is a good fit for us since the trucks are kind of similar to the Street Stocks we know and love,” Barber said. “We have been able to take the knowledge we’ve gained doing that and apply it to our truck setups. Jennie still runs a Street Stock, in fact, and I still have one.

“My son told me he was surprised how similar the truck races compared to the Street Stock. They don’t scale quite as easily, and they’re not rear-percentage friendly. Since they don’t have a lot of power, they don’t need that rear percentage weight distribution anyway. There’s a happy medium of balance.”

While the series has technically only run one points race in 2021, they have actually been on-track on four occasions. Jarrett has two wins in three starts, while Chuck has three top-five finishes.

“Our first race at I-37 was the lone points show for us thus far,” Barber added. “We had a few makeup races, but no points were awarded since the dates weren’t on the original schedule. We have a race this coming weekend at 105 Motor Speedway in Cleveland, and I’m really looking forward to it.”

When the Tracy brothers bought the series last year from co-founder George Jones (his partner at the time was Vermont native Mike Fortier), their first priority was to get more trucks in the pits. They did that, with a solid field of entries compared to most of 2019. Barber says he was watching all along.

“I’ve liked the trucks since the night they first raced at I-37 in March of 2019,” he explained. “A friend of mine, Jamie Fuller, called me one night, and he was pretty frustrated about the class he’d been running. He told me he had bought a truck, and that got me excited. So I started looking for one.”

The truck that carries Barber around the ovals had a pretty stout record before he bought it.

“Jamie called me about two weeks later, and told me the truck that Ryan Doyon had was for sale,” Barber explained. “Ryan won some races in it, and it’s a good piece. I’m very happy with it. Most of these machines are old asphalt trucks, so it takes some work to convert them over for dirt.”

All three members of the family play an active role on the team. Chuck says Jarrett, with his degree in mechanical engineering, is the chassis setup guru. Jennie, despite her jaw-dropping beauty and skills on the keyboard, can get down and dirty just like the guys; working on her own Street Stock with glee.

“Jarrett has been racing all along, except when he was in college,” Barber said. “I knew he was smart a long time ago, so I encouraged him to pursue the engineering degree. He’s working in that field now, but has been racing a Street Stock for about seven years. He has done very well behind the wheel.

“Jennie was after me one time to get involved in the sport,” the elder Barber explained. “So I told her she needed to start working on the cars, and she did. In fact, she even changed all four springs by herself one time before I got home from the road on business. She’s serious and works very hard at it.”

For Jarrett, racing with his father and sister is rewarding and fulfills his desire to be competitive.

“Having grown up racing with my Dad has been a great experience for me,” he explained. “It’s allowed us to spend lots of time together, both at the track and at the shop. He’s taught me how to work on race cars, and how important hard work is to being successful on the track.

“The Texas Dirt Truck Series has been really fun to compete in this year, and we’ve had some good success. You don’t see trucks on dirt very often, so it gives fans something different to enjoy. There are a lot of great people involved, and the series is continuing to grow. I’m excited for our next races.”

For Jennie, racing with her father and brother is about as good as it gets. She’s always busy with work and life in general, yet still finds time to maintain her Street Stock and go racing on the weekends.

“The lifelong friends we’ve made in racing have become family,” she said. “Everyone is there to have fun and lend a hand. Weekends of traveling to different tracks, along with being in the shop every other night working on cars are what’ve given us the chance to spend quality time sharing our passion.

“One thing my brother and I have learned is that if we don’t work on the cars ourselves, we don’t race. Racing has taught us discipline, perseverance, patience, responsibility and respect. The sport has been an amazing experience for our family and I look forward to sharing it with my own family some day.”

With the influx of new faces into the series, Chuck says he’s delighted to see the progress being made.

“I think Mike and Bo are doing a good job at getting more people to take a look at the series,” he said. “They bought some trucks, put some good racers in them and always have one on hand in case a driver wants to give their series whirl. They’re all-in with this deal, and I respect the effort they’re making.

“What I love most about this series and think should be appealing to others considering joining us is the camaraderie we have. It’s one happy extended family, and we don’t get caught up in the drama that can occur at individual tracks. We all get along, go to the tracks and do our thing, then enjoy each other.”

Barber’s wonderful family-based team is mostly self-funded, yet there are two people and their highly respected business he says are very important to his racing program.

“I need to thank Lawrence and Pat Mikulencak of Ace Transmissions,” Barber said. “They do all of our transmissions and are awesome people. I appreciate their support in a big way.”

With that prolonged rainy spell now in the rear view mirror, things can get back to normal on the Texas Dirt Truck Series. More points races, more traveling with that extended family, and more good times.

“I’m just really enjoying myself these days, going out racing in a great little series with my son and daughter,” Barber concluded. “I love the atmosphere, my kids are having fun and we’re running well.  As a guy who’s starting to slow down and is very proud of his kids, I’m one happy racer these days.”