NASCAR

Barrett hoping for Hollywood ending

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Ryan McGee

 
   
 
During this long, hot summer, Americans are spending their Saturday afternoons doing any and everything possible to stay inside — where the AC is cranking and frosty treats are just a few steps away. Which means that most of us — whether we realize it or not — have been spending a good chunk of our time with a SoCal dude named Stanton Barrett. No, you probably haven't heard of him. And that's fine. He doesn't want to be recognized most of the time. Besides, how are you supposed to identify someone who spends most of his time either moving at 180 miles per hour or setting himself on fire? "During one of my jobs, I want as many people to recognize me as possible," explains the 32-year-old. "But during the other, if I don't totally look like someone else, then I'm not doing a very good job." This summer, the combustible fruits of his labor have been on display across blacktops and silver screens across the country. During one eight-day stretch from July 29 to August 6 (take a deep breath), Barrett will practice, qualify and race two NASCAR Busch Series events in St. Louis and Indianapolis, attempt to land a ride for the prestigious Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and his latest film The Dukes of Hazzard will open on more than 3,500 movie screens. "Yeah, I've been a little busy. Double the fun, right?" You bet. And double the cool. Barrett estimates that he has worked on more than 150 feature films, crashing through glass, jumping over rivers and blowing himself up for heavyweight directors such as Steven Spielberg, Tim Burton and Kevin Costner. He's been chased by dinosaurs in Jurassic Park: The Lost World, stampeded by jungle animals in Jumanji and climbed walls for Spider-Man. But none of those challenges can hold a CGI-created candle to the one goal that has eluded him all these years. "Breaking into NASCAR as a full-time driver is the toughest thing I have had to do. I think that there have always been some questions about my commitment to driving because of my stunt work, but I think that anyone who has worked with me in the past knows that racing is my first love. I do stunts so I can race."
It's true. The guy has stared down dynamite on a daily basis to pay for his passion. Since making his Busch Series debut 13 years ago, he has started more than 125 NASCAR races, including 11 in Nextel Cup. Over that time he has piloted cars fielded by 16 different owners, from Jack Roush and Junie Donlavey to a bunch of people you have never heard of to ... Stanton Barrett. "It is difficult to sell yourself to teams. There are hundreds of guys just hanging out in North Carolina trying to convince team owners and sponsors to take a chance on them. And when you can't find someone to do that, you sometimes have to pay for it yourself." Which is an outstanding way to go broke very, very quickly. And the only way to land more money in the stunt game is to take on the tricks that no one else has the guts to attempt. More often than not, the stuntman pay scale is based on performance. The more insane the stunt, the sweeter the payday. And the truly demented jobs come with bonus checks. While shooting a scene for Cradle 2 the Grave three summers ago, Barrett volunteered for such a gig, a bonus baby that required him to ride over the top of a series of buildings and roofs in downtown L.A. At the end of the sky-riding stunt, he hit the ground with so much force that the camera mounted on the rear of his bike broke free, slamming the rig into his left foot. The result was an extra four grand in his pocket to go with 10 broken bones in his foot. One week later he finished 20th at the Chicagoland Speedway. Again, sounds crazy right? But you can't blame the kid. It's in his blood. Barrett is the son of U.S. Olympic skier Penny McCoy and Stan Barrett, a bona fide Hollywood legend. Stan started slamming into stuff at a high rate of speed during the late 1960's. He owns a resume spanning four decades, from the original Star Trek television series to Smokey and the Bandit. His time behind the wheel of Burt Reynolds' famous black Trans Am led to the unlikeliest of moonlighting gigs — a Winston Cup ride in a car owned by Reynolds and Smokey director Hal Needham. The elder Barrett made 14 Cup starts between 1980 and '82. He picked up two top-10 finishes, led four laps and in his spare time took a couple of shots at the land speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats. Reynolds and Needham went on to fame and fortune in Cup racing thanks to driver Harry Gant. Barrett headed back to Hollywood. Pops may have had his fix, but his kid was hooked and has been ever since. Even if the full-time NASCAR establishment isn't quite sold on the fact that a guy who spends his weekdays crashing cars can make a living not wrecking them on the weekends. "To me, doing what I do and then still driving should prove how serious I am about racing. I've driven with a broken collarbone, a broken femur ¿ I raced three races with those 10 broken bones in my foot. If that doesn't tell anyone about my commitment to racing, I don't know what will."

Friday, 8/12 on SPEED
3 p.m. ET: National Pit Crew Championship
5 p.m. ET: NASCAR Live
7 p.m. ET: Trackside
8 p.m. ET: Nextel Cup Happy Hour

Saturday, 8/13 on SPEED
9 a.m. ET: Busch qualifying
11 a.m. ET: Nextel Cup qualifying
1 p.m. ET: NASCAR Live
2 p.m. ET: ARCA race
5 p.m. ET: Craftsman Truck race
7:30 p.m. ET: SPEED News
8 p.m. ET: NASCAR Performance

Sunday, 8/14 on SPEED
11 a.m. ET: NASCAR This Morning
7 p.m. ET: SPEED News NASCAR Edition
8 p.m. ET: NASCAR Victory Lane

To prove that point, Paul Newman's godson has cleared his calendar of everything but racing for the first time in his life. Dukes wrapped in January, shortly after Mr. and Mrs. Smith, and Barrett hasn't done a stunt since. And for the first time in three seasons, he's behind the wheel of a car that he doesn't have to worry about underwriting. Car owners John and Nancy McGill's DCT Racing team is admittedly under-funded, but they don't require Barrett to pay the bills, they just need him to drive. Through a series of short-term sponsors on the hood, Barrett and crew chief Ricky Pearson, son of NASCAR legend David Pearson, have beaten long odds to qualify for every Busch Series event this season. The number 36 Chevy had a legitimate shot to win NASCAR's inaugural Mexico City race in March before a run-in with Kevin Harvick punted it back to a 19th place finish. They aren't a weekly threat to win races ... yet. But DCT, which stands for "Dreams Come True," are showing flashes of being competitive on a regular basis. That's all Barrett wants — a chance. "All those years of racing on Saturday, flying home and working all week, then meeting with potential sponsors and flying back to race again the next weekend. I never made a big deal about it because I know a lot of people thought I was just some rich Hollywood guy who came out to race like a side hobby. But all the money I have made and spent and all the risks I have taken have been for one thing — to have a shot at winning races. And if I can put the results up there, no one should be able to question my being out here." A few more runs like Mexico City and the only question from competitors will be, "Did I just get beaten by the dude who jumped the General Lee?"
Ryan McGee is the managing editor at NASCAR Images. He can be reached at his e-mail address: rmcgee@foxsports.com.

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