Chuck Barnes Jr. had a year to remember in 2004. The Louisville, KY native won the ARCA/CRA Super Series championship, then followed it up with the biggest Super Late Model win of his career in the All-American 400 at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville. Fifteen years later, he is set to make his Super Late Model return in Saturday’s North/South Super Late Model Challenge with Richie Wauters Motorsports.
In the fifteen years since his All-American 400 win, Barnes has raced just about everything and has been successful. He won in his ARCA Menards Series debut at Toledo Speedway in 2006 and has won several races in a Street Stock, including a Frank Kimmel Street Stock National race at Iowa Speedway in 2013, back-to-back U.S. Short Track Nationals at Bristol Motor Speedway, and the 2017 Halloween 200 at Salem Speedway.
The opportunity to race for Richie Wauters first came about for last month’s All-American 400, but Mother Nature prevailed and the race was cancelled. He received the chance after recent Richie Wauters Motorsports driver Mason Mingus scaled back his schedule.
“I used to crew chief for Mason Mingus back in 2010, somewhere in there, and we’ve stayed friends over the time,” Barnes told Speed51.com. “Mason is now running a big job up in Bowling Green (KY) and really doesn’t have time to go race and Donnie Mingus and Team Construction’s sponsoring the race, so he wanted to have a car at that event. He teamed up with Richie Wauters and that’s kind of how it went about.”
While it may be his first time in a Super Late Model since the 2015 Southern Super Series race at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville, it is not his first time back in a Super Late Model race. Barnes competed in last year’s Redbud 400 as the only driver in a Pro Late Model, coming home with a top ten finish.
Barnes was originally scheduled to compete in the Richie Wauters No. 5 for the All-American 400 last month before rain forced the track to cancel the event. He feels like the results from a test session before the All-American 400 has helped him prepare for the North/South Super Late Model Challenge.
“That was a trial and error, and a lot of error,” he joked about his Redbud 400 start. “We went and tested before the (All-American) 400 rained out. We were working on the balance of the car and just getting smooth with the wheel. We had some speed, just needed a few more laps to get everything tuned up. Hopefully we don’t rain out our Friday night practice and I think we’ll be pretty good.”
The 2004 All-American 400 winner has a lot of history with tracks similar to Nashville. He owns multiple wins at Bristol, Winchester, and Salem, three tracks with fast speeds and high-banked corners. He does not feel like his big win fifteen years ago will mean much come this weekend, but he goes into this weekend’s race at what he considers to be his favorite track with a confidence boost.
“Nashville in general, I just love that track, he said. “I come from Salem and Winchester, which is what I consider my home tracks as far as that driving style. Going to Nashville, you’re having the similar feels, but I don’t think it takes the balls to get around Nashville like it does Winchester. I feel like I have more control. Long straightaways, tight high-banked corners, it’s my favorite track.”
Barnes is looking for a strong run in his return behind the wheel of a Super Late Model. With the Richie Wauters team by his side and a couple heavy hitters not expected to be there this weekend, he feels like he can contend for a strong finish and possibly the win.
“I always want to be competitive, so running top five is definitely our goal,” Barnes said. “Seeing where we’re at with ten to go and making the most of it. When Kyle Busch was going there and Bubba Pollard was going for the 400, we knew we were running for third on back. We’re never going to give up till the flag falls, but I feel like we have a shot to run good with them guys.”
-Story by Koty Geyer, Speed51.com State Editor (IN & MI)
-Photo credit: Speed51.com photo