Ron Barfield is in his first full season driving for the Gloy-Rahal NCTS team, co-owned by former road racing champion Tom Gloy and Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Rahal. Like many other professional drivers, Barfield's introduction to racing ...
Ron Barfield is in his first full season driving for the Gloy-Rahal NCTS team, co-owned by former road racing champion Tom Gloy and Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Rahal. Like many other professional drivers, Barfield's introduction to racing competition came as a youngster, in go-karts where he won two titles. Last season, he finished ninth in the NCTS points standings with 10 top-10 finishes which more than doubled his previous top-10 total. This season has been one of contrasts for Barfield and his team. His career-best third-place finish at Monroe has been overshadowed by a string of bad luck outings. Although somewhat frustrated with his season to this point, Barfield remains confident that better things will happen and will happen soon.
RON BARFIELD - 55 - Icehouse Beer Ford F-150 YOUR SEASON SO FAR HAS BEEN UP AND DOWN. YOU HAD YOUR BEST CAREER FINISH AT EVERGREEN, BUT IT'S BEEN TOUGH SINCE THEN. "Well, what is happening here right now is we have one heck of a crew chief and team. These guys are really working hard. The team manager is doing an excellent job. The crew chief is doing an excellent job. We've been fast everywhere we've been. In the years past, I've kind of survived, maybe not running good, but I'd survive. I'd get up to the middle of the field and get up toward the front of the field and take a bad day and turn it into a decent day. That's what I've always done. But this year everywhere we've been we've had a truck that would win the race. But we have had just the darndest things happen. You would take a decent day and fall out of the race. A brake line would bust, or a tire comes apart. We've got a bunch of people here who want to win a race. And we can win, but we need to get luck on our side. It's like Martinsville. At Martinsville we didn't have the best truck, but we had a good truck. We weren't like we were at Homestead or at Monroe, Washington. We weren't going to win the race, but we had a top-five truck. And then everything got jammed up on pit road and I run into the back of somebody and it knocked a line off. It's weird to me because the last couple of years I've took a truck that maybe has not been as good and finished really well with it. And now I've got trucks that can win the race and because of little things we're finishing 23rd and 25th. But just like I told the guys, we can't keep running like we're running. We're going to win races. All it's going to take is momentum. The guys know not to get down because it is going to be good. We are just going to get better. The harder they work, we're just going to run better and better."
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED IN RACING? "I started racing go karts when I was around six years old. Both my mom and dad raced at the time. We would go to different kart tracks every week. So just about every weekend up to that time I would be at a racetrack. So I drove karts up until the age of 17. By that time we were running at a national level. I was successful in the karts but I wanted to get into cars. I actually wish that I could have gotten in to the cars a couple of years earlier than I actually did. It was not until my Senior year in high school that I started racing cars at Myrtle Beach Speedway in Florence, South Carolina and other tracks around my home. Then I went to the Slim Jim All Pro Series and spent about two years there with some success. We were fourth in the points my first year and third after my second year. Halfway through the second year I got hooked up with the Michaels brothers who were running Slim Jim All-Pro at the time also. Well, they were running motors that were built by Ernie Elliott, (the brother of NASCAR Winston Cup star and Ford driver, Bill Elliott). So about halfway through the year, I got hired to go and run for them. That was the very first time that I got hired away to go and drive for someone other than a family-owned race car."
TELL US ABOUT YOUR MOVE TO GLOY/RAHAL. "Bill called me one night and said, "A buddy of mine named Tom Gloy is looking for a driver for his truck." And he said, "I'd like for you to do it." I asked him where, and he said Monroe, Washington. Well we had already planned on going there but were backed up on our schedule. This was in 1996. Bill said he drove a 24-hour race with Tom, and he said, "the guy's been really good to me in the past and I'd like for you to do it." And I want to race. I went out and saw Tom in San Francisco, and we went through the truck. I told him I couldn't find anything wrong with the truck. They had missed some races, and I couldn't find anything wrong. I asked Tom how much horsepower there was in the truck, and he said it had plenty. We went to Monroe, and when we unloaded off the truck we were like sixth fastest. And I thought this is going to be fine. This is going to be good. At the time when I drove those first races for him they were just coming out of road racing. They needed a driver at that time that would sit in the seat and tell them what they needed to do to make the truck go around an oval track. They knew road courses. I was the kind of a driver when I was at Bill's that would say take the thousand pound spring out the front and put 900 in. That's what they needed at the time. It was a good race team. The guys would work hard and do whatever it took to win a race. That's what I remembered about the team. And it's pretty much the same people. All the people have pretty much been with Tom over the years. They just needed somebody at that time to give them a baseline or a basic set-up because they just weren't used to this kind of racing. It comes down to a racer is a racer. If you've got guys on the team that want to win, it don't matter if you are racing snowmobiles or trucks. If you get people that want to win, you are going to be successful. This team is going to be successful. We've just got to get all the ingredients going at the same time. It's not just one thing over here. You've got to have everything happening. You've got to be on the money every week because it is getting so competitive.
HOW MUCH INFLUENCE DOES BOBBY RAHAL HAVE IN THE DAY-TO-DAY OPERATIONS? You know with Bobby, I was really, really impressed. I went down there to the Gloy shop at the end of last season. Bobby was driving last season (in CART), and I went down to test at Homestead. He (Bobby) came over and wanted to know what was going on. We had him on the pit wall at Homestead during the race, and he was talking to the crew chief. Tom was on the spotter's stand. When I first got into this I didn't know how much he was involved. But after we started testing and going to the races, I found out he was really involved. I enjoy that. We had a good run at Monroe, and I talked to him on Monday. He was getting ready to go to Japan. Their (CART's) schedule is so intense when they are traveling that whenever you get to talk to him, it's really nice to do. He'd give us a call at the shop maybe every two weeks to find out how things are going. Tom really stays in contact with the shop."
WHAT ABOUT THE SWITCH FROM CHEVROLET TO FORD? "Whenever you sit in a truck you don't know whether you are in a Chevy or a Ford really. The first time I drove, when I drove for Elliott the Ford trucks were pretty good. Then I got in a Chevrolet, and they were pretty close. I drove a Chevrolet for a year. When I drove for Bill I didn't run enough races to learn the trucks. After driving a Chevrolet all year and then getting back into a Ford, the Ford is definitely better. The Ford has come a long way. It is a lot better. The one thing I noticed about the Ford compared to the Chevrolet; the Chevrolet didn't seem to have any downforce at all. So when you'd get behind somebody it was no big deal. But the Ford seems like it has a little bit of downforce until you get behind somebody. Then it doesn't have any downforce. So the thing is your truck is a whole lot better when you are out front or it's a lot better if you are behind somebody. It depends on what the conditions are with your truck. Where the Chevrolet pretty much stayed the same. The Chevrolet has a new body style now, and I'm sure they've got downforce in it. I didn't get a chance to run the new one. But it seems like I've had more success in a Ford, and I've run better in a Ford. When it comes to the trucks right now, it seems like Ford has a good truck right now."
DO YOU HAVE A RITUAL YOU GO THROUGH BEFORE A RACE? "I pretty much go with the flow. The last couple of years I have tried to be by myself a little bit to focus on what I've got to do. But when it comes to a ritual thing, no not necessarily. The one thing I do when I sit in the truck is I turn the switches on in a certain order. I don't whether that's just making sure I get all the switches on, but if I turn one on out of order I always go back and flip them the other way. I go across the top and go across the bottom, and if I miss one I have to turn them all off and do it the right way."
LOOKING AHEAD TO THIS WEEKEND AT PIKES PEAK. IS THERE ANYTHING YOU DO DIFFERENTLY WITH THE TRUCK AT THAT ALTITUDE? "Last year I decided to change things, and I have to sit down with our motor man a little bit, but I think this year we are going there just like a regular race track. The air is thinner a little bit, and we need to make sure it's jetted right. But we're not going to change anything at the present moment. Last year when I changed some stuff, I think it bit me at the end of the race."
BILL ELLIOTT AND HIS BROTHER ERNIE GAVE YOU A SHOT WITH THEIR TEAM. TELL US ABOUT THAT. "Yeah they were pretty successful at the time before I arrived, so the only thing that really changed was the driver in the car. That is where I attracted the eye of both Ernie Elliott and Bill Elliott. Ernie was building the motors and Bill would be watching some of the races either in person or an on television. I got a phone call from Bill (Elliott) on a Monday morning after winning an All Pro race and we went into his office and talked. We were going to run three races, Atlanta, Daytona in an ARCA car and the first truck race at Homestead. And that was the only three races that we were guaranteed to do. That showed me I was doing some good things at the time. Things came along real well after that and the tie-ins that I got from my time with Elliott led me to my current deal with Gloy/Rahal."