South Boston Speedway News
From Farm Fields To South Boston Speedway, Jason Barnes Has Been The Late Model Surprise Of 2018
Jul 22, 2018 - updated Jul 22nd, 2018 7:58am
Web posted by Mike Smith
SOUTH BOSTON, Va. (July 19, 2018) – Jason Barnes spends most of his summer on a tractor, helping tend over 3,000 acres on his family farm.
But then there are Saturday nights. Things are a little different then when he heads about an hour and forty-five minutes west on US 58 from the farm property in Dinwiddie and Sussex counties.
His destination isn’t vast farm acreage, but rather the .4-mile South Boston Speedway where he has emerged as one of the surprises of the 2018 season.
After a couple of years of running near the rear of the Late Model field at South Boston, Barnes has been a front-runner all season. He’s fifth in the Late Model points, trailing only a pair of national champions, Philip Morris and Peyton Sellers, and Thomas Scott and Austin Thaxton.
He has finished in the top 10 seven times in 10 starts and in the top five four times, with a third and three fourths. It has been without a doubt the best of his three seasons in a Late Model.
The difference? Better equipment and an alignment with four-time national champion Lee Pulliam and his Lee Pulliam Performance company. The two joined forces for a few races in 2017 and continued that alliance this season.
“It was a huge change for me. It was so much more car than I had ever had. It was like night and day,” Barnes said of the move.
Barnes raced go karts as a kid, but traded racing for baseball and college as he got older. He returned to racing five years ago in an entry-level division at Southside Speedway in Richmond and a year later moved up to Late Models. He made the move to South Boston in 2016.
“In 2016 I came to South Boston and ran an 18-year-old Late Model and finished 12th in points and missed four races,” said Barnes. “The next year I turned down some rides at Southside because I wanted to come back to South Boston. That’s where the best of the best are.”
Barnes wound up purchasing a car from Pulliam. Pulliam and his team maintain the car and provide race-day help. It is the only way he can race competitively Barnes said.
“I work 80 hours a week on the farms. The last race I didn’t even know if I would be able to make it to the track at all,” said Barnes, who along with his father Charles and brother Rusty grow soy beans, corn, cotton, tobacco and peanuts on their family farm. His father, brother, wife Lindsay and their 16-month-old daughter Berkleigh provide a solid support system.
It’s not just the equipment that has helped Barnes; it is the mentoring that has come with it.
“Lee has helped me tremendously. When we first started testing I’d come in and he would give me a little information and I would pick up a 10th (of a second). He has helped me learn to give the feedback I need to give him. He has helped me make decisions I would have never thought of,” said Barnes.
Barnes admits “the car is still a little bit better than I am,” but says he is making gains every week and believes “we are right there” when it comes to challenging for a win.
“It’s all been a big momentum builder. It was almost like I didn’t look forward to qualifying because I knew I’d start at the rear of the field,” said Barnes, who gets sponsorship help from Barnes Farms and Old Hickory Landscapes. “But now I have so much more confidence. It’s a bit overwhelming to run that good and it’s emotional to know you can run with those guys.”
Barnes will be back in action July 28 with the NASCAR Late Model 100 racing program at South Boston, featuring a 100-lap Late Model race, a 50-lap Limited Sportsman race, twin 15-lap races for the Budweiser Pure Stocks, a 15-lap race for the Budweiser Hornets and a 30-lap race for the Mod 4 Division.
Grandstand gates open at 5:30 p.m. with the green flag falling at 7 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults. Children 12 and under are admitted free.
PHOTO CAPTION: Jason Barnes (28) leads Austin Thaxton through the second turn at South Boston Speedway.