It isn’t every day that we can report about a long-time Mopar brand racer running down a bunch of Ford products and winning in his first time out ever driving a Chevrolet! But that’s exactly what happened during the recent Amalie Oil NHRA Gatornationals held in Florida, NHRA’s traditional East Coast season-opening event.
David Barton, from Robesonia Pennsylvania, and son to legendary Canadian-born race car engine builder extraordinaire Ray Barton, first raised some eyebrows that weekend when the Gainesville event entry list showed his name as driver of a 2015 COPO Camaro.
Despite the fact that this car (which is owned by Gary Wolkwitz) was acquired only a few months before, and then only run once in testing prior to the event, Barton’s team came away the winner in the first Factory Stock Showdown of the season!
“Long story short, the car owner Gary Wolkwitz (Califon, New Jersey) really enjoyed watching the Factory Stock Showdown at last year’s event in Englishtown,” David explained. “He liked it so much he wanted to own one, and he liked the COPOs best. We contacted Chevrolet to buy one but they were all sold out. Then a few months later at Indy some guys from GM saw how well our Ray Barton Engines COPO customers were running. So we kind of beat on them a little and explained that we have a serious customer who wants to make a statement with a COPO. And by the way, he holds the SS/AH record, so please find us a car! It just so happened that they (Chevrolet) had this very car on display at Indy. So after Indy, Wolkwitz wrote them a letter explaining his intentions. It turns out this was a very special car (2015 COPO Camaro, car #69) the last one built with that body style. So GM was being cautious—they didn’t want it being sold to just a car collector or somebody looking to flip it to make a dollar. In the end they liked Gary’s plan and agreed to sell it to him. We picked up the car in November.”
At Gainesville, after qualifying No. 4 in the eight-car field, Barton proceeded to top the elite field, taking out three Ford Mustang drivers consecutively. In rounds one and two he beat Don Fezell and Chuck Watson. His team then saved their best performance for the final round, as Barton ran both low e.t. and top speed of the entire event (8.390 at 162.78 mph) to take the decision over Kevin Skinner.
“That was our first race with this car,” David affirmed. “We tested in Valdosta (Georgia) only two days beforehand to work out a few bugs, and that seemed to help our team tremendously. Entering the race my main concern was to be able to qualify in the top eight. Of course, I wanted to win all along, but our setup was so new. But after the first qualifying shot I realized I had a solid chance of winning this deal. Winning this race was monumental for many reasons: It was my first time ever out in a Chevy, and I believe we are the first to win a NHRA Factory Showdown event with a COPO.”
“For us, it’s special too, because winning this race proved we can put any car in the Winner’s Circle, not just Hemi cars,” he added. “That was a pretty big deal because I feel like we have had a Mopar “M” tattooed on our foreheads. Well, maybe now that is starting to fade. I’ll never forget my roots, but it’s 2016 and all of these new COPO cars are exciting us.”
This COPO FS/XX car features a 350ci supercharged engine with a 2.9L Whipple that (with Ray Barton Racing Engines expertise) produces a whopping 1,145 hp!
In addition to Gary; his dad, Ray; and wife, Samantha; David cites highly valued support from his crew members Todd Hoven and Karl Kelber, and also everyone involved in this build: Mike Roth (chassis), Bob Hochrun, Jerry Noonan, Roger Allen, Robin Wright, Mike Pustelny, Mickey Thompson Tires, Holley EFI, Bullet Cams, Joel’s On Joy Transmissions, ATI Converters, Bob Fox, Diamond Pistons, Moroso, Phil and Randy Painter, Mark Williams, and VP Racing Fuels.
But this particular story does not end there. I mean what is drag racing without something weird happening?
Following their win and while waiting for their turn to go to victory lane for photos and presentation, their new COPO was clipped by another racer’s trailer who was exiting the event premises, causing some minor damage to the side of the car.
Needless to say, car owner Gary Wolkwitz was “not pleased” with that unfortunate development. But soon after, the $1,500 First Place check and trophy from Factory Stock Showdown sponsors SAM Tech, quickly eased the pain!