A FIRST-CLASS CHAMPIONSHIP
Championship Close-Up: Barry Gregory – JW Martin
Since 2009, veteran racer Barry Gregory has been second-best.
Always a race winner, but when it came time to tally the Motor Mile Speedway Street Stock division points, Gregory was never the champion.
He had come oh-so-close in 2009, falling two points shy of the track title. He was bested again in 2010, and a year later, he was edged out in a historic, groundbreaking championship finale.
Each season, Gregory took the backseat; the breakthrough delayed for another year.
Everything remained unchanged as Gregory eyed his eighth season of competition entering 2012. The team, the car…nothing needed fixing. The only ingredient keeping the perennial Street Stock team from their elusive championship crown: Good luck.
Gregory began the 2012 season in victory lane and in command of the points lead. Since its inception, it was the No. 9 team’s best start at Motor Mile Speedway. But one week later, Gregory surrendered the top spot in the standings to three-time track champion Brent Bell. Gregory plummeted to third, and would spend the next two months wrestling the points lead away from his old adversary.
Early on, 2012 began to resemble bygone seasons at the New River Valley short track for team No. 9. But the bad luck Gregory fought to out-run on the track instead snaked its way into the pits. By mid-season, it was revealed that crewmember Wes Ferrell was suffering from osteosarcoma —bone cancer — necessitating the amputation of his right leg.
What could have been a debilitating setback for the 18 year-old proved instead to be an inspirational rallying cry. Not far removed from surgery, Ferrell was soon back at the track in what became the feel-good story of the 2012 season at Motor Mile Speedway. And the team responded. Gregory notched his final victory on July 28th, sparking a five-race streak of top three finishes.
The late-season surge was enough to outshine defending champion Dr. Sheryl Carls for the Carpet Factory Outlet Street Stock title by a margin of 14 points.
On September 16, in the glow of championship night at MMS, Gregory reflected on his accomplishment. From the shadows, Gregory’s team had found the spotlight.
“It means a whole lot. These are hard to come by,” Gregory said. “I’m just out here to win races, but the team wanted the championship. And I’m glad we got it.”
One of those team members: Wes Ferrell.
“It meant a lot to be a part of the team; it’s more like a family. They have been through everything with me, and have been by my side through it all,” said Ferrell. “They told me when we started the season we were gonna go after the championship, and that’s what we did. Barry is one of the best drivers out there, and I couldn’t think of anyone who deserved the championship more.”
At times, Gregory may have been second-best by some standards. But his No. 9 team has always been first-class…by any standard.
The Trackside Transcript: Barry Gregory
How long have you been racing, and why did you get into it?
I started racing on dirt around 2002. Dusty McGee got me into it when he raced. Then
I was talked into building a car for asphalt in ’04, which is the same old car I still run. [Christine] We spent a lot of long nights building her; I’m lucky to even run with the high dollar cars we have now.
Entering this year, you were coming off three second place finishes in the track standings. What were your expectations for this season, knowing how close you’ve been…did you expect to contend for a championship?
I thought we would be there if our luck changed.
Four wins in the last three seasons, and your team tallied five wins this season. That’s an impressive improvement—what changed over the off-season?
I didn’t have anybody wrecking me and we had no engine failures. It didn’t have much to do with the off season.
What attributes to your success this year? Was the team that much better, or did you just finally have the racing luck to match your team’s ability?
Eric Huff building great engines and Tim Barns spotting is the biggest key, and having Darrell Graham here to help me whenever I need him. The team always works hard and we just had a little more go our way this year.
I want to ask you about Wes, how did that affect the team? What’s his role on the team, and what was he doing on the team prior to the surgery?
Wes is a great big help and an encouragement to the whole team… he is like our mascot. He always helped push and change tires or whatever you may need; he is always there. Him and his dad Darrell are always there for us. They’re more than part of the team; they’re like family .
What does this title mean to you, personally, and what does it mean to the team?
I don’t race for points, but the team wanted it. That’s why I tried to stay out of trouble…to win it for them. All I care about is winning races— that’s what I like. But it was cool to do the championship burnout.
Winning a title after three runner-up finishes in the standings, what do you think it says about how hard a championship is to win?
It’s just hard to stay out of trouble and have no part failures.
Season in a Snap-Shot