Having wrapped up a successful season in October as the Camping World West Series Rookie of the Year and with third in overall points, Barkshire and the ‘46’ team looked forward to competing at the Showdown in Irwindale, California on January 24th, where East meets West with national TV coverage, providing a showcase for up and coming drivers and many home grown teams. Their goal was set high – to win the race - potentially providing the recognition of their hard work and talent that could lead to a much needed sponsorship or an opportunity to move up a level on the ladder of Nascar competition.
Of the fifty six teams who showed up from all over the country to compete, the ‘46’ team was one of thirteen who had, by winning a race during the regular season, guaranteed themselves a spot in the race. This alleviated the need to run the qualifying race. After much concern about rain, as the race was finally set to begin, their confidence was high. They had run seventh fast during practice the night before, had qualified fifth, and had a car that was reported by Jeff to be “feeling racey.”
And it remained so. They ran among the front five for over half of the 250 lap race. “We were happy running in the top five,” Jeff explained, “intending not to push our equipment too hard too early.” Then, on lap 144, running in fourth with the car still really good, especially on long runs, and with the possibility of a win still a reachable goal, our night was abruptly ended. We were one of eleven cars, including the leader, who were victims of an overly aggressive, careless move by the 33 car.
For a team to give their all to produce a competitive car, a driver to be doing a top job of driving, and yet to be unable to finish a race due to circumstances beyond their control is just one of the harsh realities of racing. As Jeff put it, “It’s always a concern that an inexperienced or just poor driver will make a race ending move for other drivers, but to have it caused in such a high stakes race by a championship driver who you’ve looked up to, well, it just makes it even harder to accept.”
In spite of being unable to finish the race, it was a good weekend for Jeff and his team. “We did our best and it was paying off,” Jeff said, “as we were having fun proudly running up front until we had to leave the track.” Another highlight of the weekend occurred a few days before the race when, as one of six teams invited to participate in a Goodyear sponsored event at Camp Pendleton, they spent the day there, showing off their cars to the soldiers and the soldiers showing off their equipment to the racers, including a “very wet” ride in an amphibious assault vehicle. “I was proud to wear on our hood the signatures of about a hundred marines,” Jeff said. “I only wish I could have given them a trip first across the finish line.”
“I’ve got lots to be thankful for,” Jeff said. “I’m so proud of and thankful for the team who volunteered their time all season. Together we built cars that were able to compete with the best of them all year, and with better luck might have been able to win the big one. I have to give thanks also to our main sponsor Centennial Batteries for their steady financial support, to Joiner Motorsports for all their help, Pure Power Lubricants, our Northwest fans for their continued support and encouragement, and of course to my biggest supporters financially and otherwise, my parents.”
And now it’s on to next season. But as Jeff explained, “The harsh reality is that, as my parents must step back from providing major financial support, we must have a major sponsor step up or be able to race only a very limited schedule in 09.”
They’ve got the heart, the talent, and by now have acquired a good amount of knowledge and skills with which they hope to continue on. For the moment though, it’s back to the shop where they have a car to fix.
For further info visit their web sight at jeffbarkshire.com