TORC: Barlow Motorsports mid-season notes

BARLOW MOTORSPORTS RED BULL OFF-ROAD RACING TEAM MID-SEASON TORC SERIES RACE ACTION Bark River, Michigan-By any measure, the Barlow Motorsports Red Bull Off- Road Racing team is off to a great start in the inaugural Traxxas TORC Series presented...

BARLOW MOTORSPORTS RED BULL OFF-ROAD RACING TEAM MID-SEASON TORC SERIES RACE ACTION

Bark River, Michigan-By any measure, the Barlow Motorsports Red Bull Off- Road Racing team is off to a great start in the inaugural Traxxas TORC Series presented by AMSOIL season. As the new short course off-road racing series reached the halfway point at Bark River International Raceway in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the team has experienced many more highs than lows. The number 48 PRO 2WD truck of Ricky Johnson has maintained the series point since the first race weekend at Texas Motor Speedway. Johnson also won the coveted Chairman's Cup at Crandon International Raceway. Team owner Steve Barlow, driver of the number 2 PRO 4X4 Red Bull Bosch Power Tools Ford F-150 has consistently been the truck to beat exhibiting both speed and driver skill. Steve Barlow is overdue for a win and looks to be a serious factor as the TORC Series heads into the second half of the season.

The Red Bull team rolled into Bark River ready to do business, but this was not to be their weekend. Off-Road racing is loaded with unpredictable variables and at Bark River those uncertainties delivered a one-two punch that kept the team off the podium for the first time this season. Both the PRO 2WD truck of Johnson and the PRO 4x4 truck of Barlow were very fast in practice and the Barlow Motorsports crew had the trucks running in top form with minor tuning changes.

In Saturday's PRO 2WD race, points leader Ricky Johnson started sixth on the grid and after a great start the number 48 was able to avoid the first lap jostling and was charging hard toward the front. Unfortunately, the front seal in the power steering pump failed, making the truck nearly impossible to turn. After a trip to the hot pits to access the problem, Johnson went back out and strong-armed the truck around without power assist in an effort to salvage championship points. After the seventh race of the 2009 TORC Series season, Ricky Johnson maintained a ten-point lead over the second place truck of Rob MacCachren.

In the opening laps of round 7 of PRO 4X4 action a podium finish for Steve Barlow if not a win seemed likely. Starting on the pole, Barlow jumped out to an early lead and held off aggressive attempts to pass. After the yellow, race contact cut the right rear tire and Barlow elected to stay out and run on the flat. Even with the tire shredding, the number 2 Red Bull F- 150 was run at an impressive pace only giving up a few seconds per lap to the leaders. In the closing laps Barlow was running on the tough Kumho inner liner, still throwing the truck sideways and attacking the big Bark River jumps. The extra effort produced a sixth place finish.

Ricky Johnson and the TORC Series crew worked with Bark River officials to embed new elements in the high-speed natural terrain 1.5-mile track. The changes made the race course more technical and challenging, allowing a few more opportunities to pass. Those changes also challenged crew chiefs with tire selection and suspension setup. The track changes included a new section of short, choppy jumps that formed a rhythm section that kicked the trucks in every direction when the timing and chassis setup wasn't just right.

For Sunday round 8 of TORC Series race action the Red Bull team was well prepped and ready to do battle. By the time the PRO 2WD race rolled around late in the afternoon, however, the track surface was very loose with dry and dusty sections mixed with hard and slick blue-grooved clay. Points leader, Ricky Johnson started outside of row three in the number six position and fought traction from the drop of the green flag. Johnson drove the number 48 hard but it simply wouldn't hook up well enough to go to the front. Ricky finished fifth in round 8 retaining the PRO 2WD points lead.

Steve Barlow in the number 2 Red Bull Off-Road Racing PRO 4x4 had a similar setup and knew he would likely fight traction too, but hoped it wouldn't be as bad with four-wheel-drive. Barlow timed the start perfectly establishing an early lead before being passed by Johnny Greaves. Like Johnson's truck, Barlow's F-150 was loose and had he his hands full trying to maintain momentum and stay on the race line. On lap five, with the truck pitched sideways entering the turn before the finish line, Barlow's truck was hit and spun out. Steve looped it on around but the spin dropped him to sixth. Back on the gas, Steve gathered it up and drove to fourth by the end of the race, one place off the podium.

The Barlow Motorsports team is looking forward to the trip back to Bark River August 8th and 9th to show the Upper Peninsula of Michigan race fans how quick the Red Bull trucks really are. TORC Series race action from Bark River will air July 19th at 11:30 am on ESPN2.

-credit: bm/rborr

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Series Offroad
Drivers Rob MacCachren , Johnny Greaves , Ricky Johnson