Stanton Barrett, driver of the No. 60 Ford, has taken the road less traveled to compete in the NASCAR Busch Series ranks. The 30-year-old California native put an aspiring career as a stuntman on hold to focus on his racing career, and will occupy the seat vacated by last season's Busch Series champion, Greg Biffle, in 2003. Barrett spoke about his unique background and the opportunity to drive for Roush Racing this season during the first day of Busch Series testing for next month's season-opening event, the Koolerz 300.
STANTON BARRETT-60-OdoBan Ford Taurus:
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT PUTTING YOUR STUNTMAN CAREER ON HOLD TO CONCENTRATE ON RACING? "It's great. It's exciting to fly back and forth to film movies on location, but I'd rather not do that right now. This is just something that I've always wanted to do and now I get the opportunity race full-time this year. I can't wait to get the season rolling and racing week-in and week-out. That's something that's going to be a lot of fun. In one regard there will be a lot less pressure because we are running the full schedule and not just focusing on selected races, but you also have added pressure in another regard because of the team I'm driving for. The difference between last year and this year is in the schedule and job definition."
DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE SOME PRETTY BIG SHOES TO FILL DRIVING THE NO. 60 CAR? "Not really. You do have some big shoes to fill because of everyone that has been in it and everyone that's part of the Roush organization and the success that they've had. We've had to emphasize in all of the discussions that we've had that we have a goal and a task at hand and it might not be the same one as last year. Roush, as an organization, is there to win races and win championships, but they really don't think about what they've done in the past. Every year is a new year and a lot of people are new this year - the driver, the crew chief and even some of the crew. You have to work together and figure out what your goals are and what the task is at hand, and how to accomplish winning again and winning a championship with a whole new variety of people even though it's the same organization. I think that's more of our focus than filling shoes. You can get overwhelmed if you think about the success that they've had in the past and get caught up trying to figure out how to compete with that instead of what makes you the best and doing the best with that people you have."
WITH ALL OF THE RESOURCES AND DRIVERS THAT ROUSH RACING HAS IN ITS ORGANIZATION, DO YOU FEEL LESS PRESSURE TO PERFORM? "I've always had a fairly good relationship with some of the drivers involved with Roush and other drivers that are involved with other teams. Fortunately, I've been doing this quite a while so it's not quite a rookie situation. I've been to every race track except for two that Busch Series runs, and I think the biggest thing is getting information and learning from my crew and having people who have experience and knowledge. We've got guys with extensive knowledge from wind tunnel testing to setups to building cars, and they're there to help you if have any questions. I think that the experience and the level of knowledge here in invaluable, so I see that as more of a fit, but then you always have the drivers to rely on, too. You're always going to have questions and it helps to go to them, especially when you have questions about the setup. They can give you some really good feedback. I guess it helps because you get on a more personal level with the drivers. Fortunately, because I've been around for quite a while, the drivers are pretty receptive to helping people out; it's been pretty convenient to have to access to those kind of people. As a whole, you can't find that or replace that. It's a great opportunity, a great situation to be in. They have so many resources between Roush Industries, Roush Racing and Ford. If you can't get it done there, you should probably go back to something else."
SINCE YOU RETAIN THE OWNER POINTS FOR LAST YEAR'S CHAMPIONSHIP TEAM AND ARE GUARANTEED A SPOT IN THE BUSCH SERIES SEASON-OPENER, ARE YOU FOCUSING ON YOUR RACE SETUP THIS WEEK? "I'm not really up to date on the new rules and how it impacts us from last year. Right now, I feel like we're focusing on qualifying because if you have a real fast qualifying car, generally, you have a good race car. It's important to qualify up front; it keeps you out of trouble. If you have a car that can run competitive laps and get up front with good pit stops, you can take a good car and work your way from the back, but, generally, a car that qualifies in the back, it's going to stay in the back. I think you really focus on good aerodynamics and the trim of the car and how well it rolls, and all of those things you work on is reflected in your qualifying effort."
DID YOUR EXPERIENCE AS A STUNTMAN HELP YOU PREPARE TO BECOME A RACE CAR DRIVER? "I think so. It's pretty much all I've ever done, but I think it helps you deal with people. From one aspect, you have to deal with such a variety of egos and personalities. In show business, you have different types of interaction from your producers to your coordinators to your directors to your actors. There is such a variety of personalities and I think it helps you really create the mindset to deal with different situations appropriately and figure out how to work together even though they might not be very workable. I think it's a very methodical thinking process when you're dealt with a stunt. You're given a script and the stunt coordinator asks, 'how are we going to do this?' You kind of evaluate it and you eliminate as many factors of danger as possible and you try to figure out how to make it as big as possible. That takes a lot of planning. Some people underestimate how much time it takes to pull off a stunt or create stunt the way they need to be done. I think mentally, it's helped me a tremendous amount. And, when you're doing a big stunt - when you flip car or are doing something that you know is pretty dangerous - you know you could get hurt. It seems like there's something in you that you turn a switch to a different level and you concentrate on your marks and where you have to be and what you have to do. When you're doing a stunt, you get in a position where you know it's going to hurt bad and you take yourself from perfect health and you don't know what to expect. It could be really bad or it could be your greatest stunt ever. At best, it's going to hurt. I think those kinds of attributes apply to racing because you're put into those types of situations where you really have to calculate what you're doing, the risk and the reward of it and figure out how to pull of your stunt or a pass or a better lap. There are a ton of variables that are similar where you have to focus and evaluate and figure out what you need to do."
ARE THERE SIMILARITIES BETWEEN BEING A RACE CAR DRIVER AND A STUNTMAN? "I think it's the intensity that's involved mentally and the focus that it takes, it's kind of the same thing. You're building up to a certain moment. Take qualifying. I'm very focused when I qualify and try to figure out every little detail of what I'm going to encounter during my two laps and run it over and over in my head including where I'm going to lift, where I'm going to get back in the gas and the reaction of the car. Generally, it's uncomfortable when you make a fast lap, so you're pushing your body and you mentality to take it to those limits. I think those kinds of things apply where you can do it successfully without having a problem. It's the same in the stunt. Some things are going to hurt, it's just how bad are you going to get hurt. Hopefully you don't and you did the right things, but there are variables you can't control. Some of the things you can control are precision things like driving and there are a bunch of things you need to focus and evaluate and use your experience and skills to pull off the stunt, and I think in qualifying it's that same kind of mentality. You need to really focus and track what your car did in practice. You know the changes that you made and you're trying to prepare for anything that comes up because on the track it's split-second decisions and you can probably evaluate what's going on. For me, driving a race car, the challenge is you don't realize how far you can push the limit. You feel like you're going fast, but there's the next level and when you get there then it's staying at that level. That's the fun and unique thing about racing - every lap is different. Every week you're somewhere else and even if you go back to the same track twice over the course of a season, it's never the same because track conditions change with the temperature and the weather. You're dealt a lot of variables that you have to figure out."
WHERE HAS YOU EXPERIENCE AS A STUNTMAN HELPED YOU ON THE RACE TRACK? "I think there are certain situations like reading wrecks because you're dealing with speeds and angles of cars and how many cars are involved and how they are connected. I think that being around stunts, you're dealt with a lot of that stuff in a variety of situations and I think I have a good sense for where things are going. I think it prepares you for that and you're used to being put into a situation where things happen fast and the same is in racing. Mentally, if you do things well in that situation everything becomes slower. People panic and things happen a lot faster. In my business if you panic you can get killed if you're in the wrong situations. I think that over time you don't panic and evaluate your situation. Things tend to slow down and you're able to react even though it happens so fast; in your head, it happened really slow. I think those kinds of things help."
HAVE YOU HAD TO TURN DOWN MOVIE ROLES IN THE PAST FEW YEARS TO BEGIN FOCUSING ON YOUR RACING CAREER? "Lots. I've had to turn a lot down because I knew that this is what I wanted to do. The year before last, I was supposed to do Matrix 1 & 2, and I couldn't because I had to be gone for two days to race the Charlotte ARCA race. I could have turned the race down but this is what I was pursuing and I thought it would help. It's such a small piece of the puzzle to make it in your career, but it's a piece that could definitely influence it and if you put enough of those pieces together you can complete the puzzle. That's a tough thing to swallow sometimes."
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR MOST EXCITING STUNT RECENTLY? "I did a really cool car flip for the TV show 'Fast Lane' two months ago. It was pretty crazy and a lot of people there said it was the most extreme thing that they'd seen in a long time, and that came from some pretty reputable stunt guys that have done a lot of car flip themselves. That show aired a week ago Friday on Fox; that was an episode that my brother directed. That was pretty spectacular."
NAME A FEW MOVIES IN WHICH YOU'VE PERFORMED STUNTS? "Batman, Volcano, Jurassic Park, Blade, Spider Man. I had to turn down Spider Man 2; I've turned down about 10 jobs in the past three weeks. I told them I'd love to do it, but, of course, I want to race. I've been doing stunt work for so long, it's kinda hard to say no. Your friends call you and you say you can't do it because you focusing on other activities right now. It's probably made a few of my stuntman friends happy, though."
TALK ABOUT YOUR MOST MEMORABLE MOVIE STUNT. "In the last Batman movie, I did a motorcycle stunt for a gang that Batgirl and Robin were racing against. I performed a stunt where I was the gang leader who had a big mohawk on his helmet and there's a chase through Gotham. I ride up to a warehouse and there are six riders and they go in the bottom and I go in the second story and ride through a paned window and land in the middle of the pack and we kinda race through Gotham and crash people. That was a big part of the movie. That was about a three or four minute chase scene that took us three months to film. I did this really cool movie that's coming out called 'Cradle to the Grave.' It's with Jet Li and DMX, and I broke most of the bones in my foot doing a stunt and had to race at Chicago a week and a half later. That's going to be really good. It's from the producer of Die Hard and Lethal Weapon, so there's a lot of action. I did a motorcycle chase scene in that and had to jump big trucks and jump through windows. In one scene I'm following an ATV, chasing the bad guy, and we're going through an intersection and there are two cars on a ratchets. We're going through the intersections as these two cars are coming at you and right as you pass through they hit each other head on. You're committed to the hole and you're watching these cars move in on you and it's pretty wild shot. I've done over 100 movies and TV shows, so it's hard to pick out one that stands out. It depends on what people like. I've done just about every stunt. It's been pretty interesting."
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE BEING A STUNTMAN AS A PROFESSION? "I think the biggest reason is because my dad was so involved in the industry. He was probably one of the most respected stuntmen in the business. He had such a reputation and he was heavily involved in it by the time we got to the age to where we could do it. My brother and I had a background in motocross; we both raced professional motocross. We were extreme skiers and professional-caliber snowboarders, and I rock climbed all of the time. You add up those sport things and that's what a stuntman does. At the level that we did everything, we did almost everything at a professional level and there weren't any stuntmen that had that broad of ability at that level, so when my dad had big shows - he did a lot of big action shows - he would hire us. He wouldn't have to hire a bunch of different guys that were specialists and then with his reputation, it was easy for us to get work. We grew up with a lot of the big coordinators and their sons were doing stunts, so they knew who we were and we had a family relationship since we were young kids, so they would hire us. Whenever you'd go on an interview and tried to hustle for work, they knew our name. It's a big word-of-mouth business and that's how you grow your career; it's all word of mouth. My dad was involved in the industry and it just made sense for us to follow in his footsteps."