During the recent NHRA Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, the prestigious Factory Stock Showdown race-within-a-race feature, which coagulates factory-produced super cars from the big three manufacturers, hosted that series’ most impressive gathering yet.
For the first time ever, the School of Automotive Machinists & Technology (SAM Tech) presented event was a 16-car eliminator format, a testament to the record 22 drivers entered for the exclusive FS/XX class heads-up, pro tree eliminator.
And once again the cream did rise to the top, as at the end of eliminations class stalwart David Barton emerged victorious for the third time this season driving a COPO Camaro.
Barton faced off against Louisiana’s Stephen Bell in the final round, which was held prime time, in conjunction with the rest of the U.S. Nationals’ championship final rounds on Monday afternoon.
In the dramatic final round, Barton clocked a winning time of 8.184 at 164.53 mph to turn back Bell’s 8.214 at 165.48 mph. Both Barton and Bell were racing supercharged 2017 Camaros. Barton’s car is owned by Gary Wolkwitz.
“What can I say? Indy has always been the biggest race you can ever win, and here I am holding the Wally,” said David Barton. “The best part was having my dad (Ray) here to celebrate with us. He missed out on the other FS/XX wins I’ve had because he’s always stuck at work at our engine-building shop. But for him to walk away from here with both the Mopar Hemi Shootout (won by Jim Daniels) and the Factory Showdown title (using his engines), I would say it was his best vacation he’s had in a long time.”
Barton’s journey to victory lane was impressive. He qualified Number One when he produced what was the second quickest run in FS/XX history: a mind-numbing 8.109 e.t. Barton holds the record of 8.101 e.t., set at Gainesville in March).
During eliminations, which were run during widely varying atmospheric conditions, Barton stopped the very formidable pair of Ford Mustangs raced by Carl Tasca and Kevin Skinner as well as fellow COPO racer Daniel Condon to advance to the championship round. Barton admitted that he felt some serious momentum going into the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals.
“Before going to Indy I decided to attend the NMCA Norwalk race, which couldn’t have turned out any better,” he continued. “I ended up qualifying Number One and did a killer wheelstand! My intentions were to help Scott Libersher fight for the Factory Super Cars championship over there. He won the last three events so our goal was to be a blocker for him in points. Unfortunately, he went out early but I was able to still do some blocking by winning the event myself, and we went 8.11 (NMCA record). Talk about a great test session for Indy!”
Runner-up, Stephen Bell, qualified Number Two, and while doing that ran the fastest speed ever in FS/XX: a stupendous 168.39 mph. Bell, who is a reputed multicar dealership owner, defeated Anthony Bongiovanni, Chuck Watson, and Scott Libersher on his way to the final round.
“The competition in this class is really tough so I knew to win Indy we had to be on our game,” Barton added. “A big focus was to get my 60-foot times down, and in the end, that’s really what put me in the winner’s circle. The difference between winning and losing was the difference in 60-foot times. Stephen Bell had me by 0.018 on the tree and had me by 1 mph at top end. Luckily my 1.18 60-foot time made all the difference and I beat him to the finish with a 0.015-second margin of victory. I was pressing on the throttle so hard I think my toes were hanging out the grille!”
Barton, who is the general manager at Ray Barton Racing Engines, was quick to cite all the important people behind his racing operations. That includes his mom and dad; wife, Samantha; car owner Gary Wolkwitz; crew chief Todd Hoven; MR2 Chassis; Chevrolet Performance; SAM Tech; GM Parts Now; Mickey Thompson; VP Racing Fuels; Joel’s On Joy Transmission; ATI; DMPE Superchargers; Bullet Cams; Holley EFI; Racepak; Mark Williams; Strange Engineering; Jesel; Diamond Pistons; Trend; Total Seal; ARH Headers; Aeromotive; JR1 Oil (and lots of ice!).
David Barton who has made the final round of all four SAM Tech Factory Stock Showdown events held so far this season (winning three), will try to win the year’s final race, which will be held during the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at St. Louis (Sept. 29-Oct. 1).
Photos: Bruce Biegler and Phil Hutchison