During the two previous editions of the Short Track U.S. Nationals, the Street Stock division has put on one of the best shows of the weekend, bar none. Tempers have flared, bump-and-run moves have been used and side-by-side racing has been on full display. This weekend, over 60 Street Stock racers are ready to do it again during Saturday’s 50-lap feature for the Van Hoy CRA Street Stocks.
Former ARCA/CRA Super Series champion Chuck Barnes Jr. is undefeated in the two races at “The Last Great Colosseum,” having won the A-Feature both years. He says the opportunity to race at Bristol is a big one for he and his fellow competitors, and to achieve the success he has had means even more due to the success his father had at the “World’s Fastest Half-Mile” with the old Frank Kimmel Street Stock Nationals.
“It means a lot and it means a little bit more since my dad won there back in 2010 in the Frank Kimmel Series, so that makes it even more special,” Barnes told Speed51.com. “With our background coming from Salem and having a lot of laps there, that helps.”
Finishing second to Barnes both years has been Brett Hudson. Having competed when the Frank Kimmel Street Stocks were around, he says the opportunity to race at Bristol is one he can’t pass up.
“It means a lot. It’s a good track, it’s fun,” Hudson said. “It’s one of the biggest named tracks around that everybody knows.”
The Owensboro, Kentucky native has led more laps than anybody else in Street Stock competition in the two previous editions of the Short Track U.S. Nationals, but he was passed by Barnes late in both races.
With that in mind, he is excited to go back to Bristol with hopes of getting over the hump and parking his Street Stock in victory lane.
“I’ve raced there a couple other times and hell, I think I’ve had the dominant car both years, I just haven’t gotten the win so hopefully we can change that,” he said. “We just got to find a little bit more speed on the long run.”
It’s not only the CRA Street Stock drivers who make the trip to east Tennessee each year. With over 60 drivers entered, local drivers from around the country are expected to be at Bristol. One of those drivers is Salem Speedway regular David Bayens, who says racing at Bristol is the coolest thing he has ever done.
“It’s the coolest thing ever. It’s like kids growing up to play baseball at Yankee Stadium,” Bayens said. “That’s what built NASCAR and to get to go race there, it’s things that you want to do on your bucket list. It’s like dreams come true.”
Bayens ended his 2018 season with a win in the famed Halloween 200 at Salem last October, where he passed two of the top three finishers in last year’s A-Feature at Bristol in the last five laps. With that win, paired with his experience at the high-banked half-mile located in Southern Indiana, he heads to Bristol with confidence in he and his team.
“I race at Salem regularly and have for the last sixteen years, eighteen years,” he said. “It’s more that I had to pass Chuck Barnes Jr. and Chuck Barnes Sr. to win it. We know Chuckie’s won both Street Stock races at Bristol, so it gives me a little boost of confidence that we can run with him as long as the car is right.”
James Kirby III will continue his CRA Street Stock title defense at the high-banked half-mile this weekend. The Indianapolis driver relishes the opportunity to race at one of the most famous short tracks in America but has had misfortune in both races he has ran. Despite that, he heads into Bristol ready to compete with some of the nation’s best.
“It’s cool, I love racing at Bristol. It’s definitely an interesting track,” Kirby said. “I just try to do the best I can everywhere I go.”
Kirby says he feels added pressure to perform well as the current CRA Street Stock champion. The 18-year-old racer says he enjoys the challenge the series and the race track throw at him.
“People always have their things they do to try to shake you up because we’re always up front, we’re always fast,” he said. “Now being the defending champion at eighteen years old, people don’t give me as much room as they should sometimes. People race me hard but that’s what I like.”
They will all be chasing Louisville, Kentucky’s Chuck Barnes Jr. as they and 60-plus other drivers look to unseat the two-time winner of the event. Despite his success, Barnes isn’t ready to call himself the odds-on favorite going into the weekend. The quality of talent, paired with the challenge Bristol Motor Speedway brings to drivers, will require drivers to have more than just skill to take home the sword on Saturday night.
“Bristol’s hard on everything, kind of like Winchester and Salem,” Barnes said. “The competition level is at an all-time high with 60 or 70 cars entered. It’s going to take a lot of luck to do it.”
Race fans can watch the excitement of the Street Stocks at Bristol via a live pay-per-view broadcast on Speed51.com. Live video tickets can be purchased today by clicking here.
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51.com State Editor (IN & MI) - Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo credit: Speed51.com photo