CRA: Chuck Barnes Jr clinches 2004 championship

Chuck Barnes, Jr Clinches Sunoco Super Series Crown in Impressive 2004 Season Louisville, Kentucky - - Heading into the 2004 season, Chuck Barnes, Jr had already accomplished a lot on the Sunoco Super Series tour. In 2003, the Louisville, ...

Chuck Barnes, Jr Clinches Sunoco Super Series Crown in Impressive 2004 Season

Louisville, Kentucky - - Heading into the 2004 season, Chuck Barnes, Jr had already accomplished a lot on the Sunoco Super Series tour. In 2003, the Louisville, Kentucky native wrapped up the Rookie-of-the-Year crown enroute to a solid eighth place points finish, while collecting six top-ten finishes.

"Last season was pretty cool," Barnes remembered. "I was able to grab Rookie-of-the-Year honors, and that was real important to me. We also tried to keep our No. 55 machine towards the front, and to end the season with six-top ten finishes, I really was pleased with our progress. But, heading into the season opener this season, the Championship is the main goal on my mind."

The 21-year old sensation started the season off on the right foot at Anderson Speedway in April. After qualifying an impressive third, Barnes kept his nose cleaned before rallying to a runner-up position in the final rundown, a then tied with a career best.

"The weekend that we had at Anderson Speedway was really what we were looking for," he explained. "Our goal was to go out there and run with the lead pack. Starting third, and to run upfront all afternoon to finish second, our team has proven that we will be a threat this season."

Nearly a month later, Barnes only continued to shine. At Indianapolis Raceway Park (IRP), Barnes mastered the short track, placing his Chevrolet Monte Carlo on the pole with a new track record. In the Sunoco Super Series, if you win the pole, you are forced to an invert draw. He drew eighth, motored hard throughout the race and finished a comfortable sixth.

A week later at Shady Bowl Speedway, the Barnes Auto Service Racing team posted the eighth fastest time in qualifying. It would be another event where he put the show on for the fans, climbing through the field to claim another runner-up position. "We're continuing to show strength," said Barnes exiting his machine after the event.

At Berlin Raceway located in Marne, Michigan, Chuck once again set the pace. In qualifying, he roared through the tricky short track, stunning several veterans to claim his second pole of the season, also a new track record. After drawing fifth for the invert, Barnes was excited for the event. In the race, he showed that patience was a virtue. Battling hard, but clean throughout the night would turn to bite the team on lap 133, when he was collected in an accident, which saw Barnes end the night in 21st. "I really hate it," he said. "We had a good car, but we've been pretty lucky this year, we'll just have to pick up the pieces and get back in the groove."

Illiana Motor Speedway put the team back on track. After qualifying a fast third, Barnes sailing from his disappointing finish at Berlin to collect his third runner-up position of the season, once again proving to the teams that "we were down, but not out attitude." After the race, the jubilant driver was excited "I knew we could easily bounce back form the tough luck. This team never gives up, and that's the best thing a driver can ask for."

Anderson Speedway in July would be a race that the team would like to erase from their records books. After starting- a season worst 29th, Barnes soared through the pack to claim 13th in the end. "Get me out of Anderson," Barnes, said jokingly.

The team bounced back at the tough short track of Mansfield Speedway in Ohio. After posting fifth quick in time trials, Barnes, Jr battled through several hiccups to claim a solid eighth.

Then came Shady Bowl Speedway. A day that Chuck Barnes, Jr. will remember for the rest of his life. After qualifying on the outside pole for the first time this season, Barnes, Jr would hush the series with a spectacular win. It was an emotional night for the team. "I am so thrilled," said a tearful driver in victory lane. "This win is for my sponsors, my family, my team, and my fans. I don't know what to say, I'm really happy, we definitely had a good weekend."

The next day, the team competed at Toledo Speedway. After qualifying a nice third, Barnes, Jr would end the weekend with a 1-2 finish, as he crossed the line second, one of his best finishes at the .5-mile oval. "I really like Toledo Speedway; I guess we can't complain with another runner up finish."

Starting 20th in the second race at Indianapolis Raceway Park (IRP), Barnes maneuvered his way through the field and quietly claimed a fifth place finish. "This was a good weekend," he said. "We had some woes in qualifying, but to end the weekend with a top-five finish, there is no room to complain."

At Columbus Motor Speedway, Barnes charged to his third pole and track record of the season, only to be handed the sixth place starting position in the invert. The team would backslide during the event, but still end the night with a tenth place finish, in a race that was exciting from the drop of the green flag.

Returning to Anderson Speedway looking for vengeance, the team looked to put their worst finish of the season and turn into a second victory at the Indiana based track. After qualifying on the outside of row one, Barnes couldn't shake his luck at the track, as mechanical issues forced the team with a 17th place finish.

The team headed into Rockford Speedway hoping not to be "rocked" out of the chase for the championship. After starting the event fifth, the handling woes caught up with the former ROTY. However, doing a masterful job, the driver fought hard to collect an 11th place finish.

At Bear Speedway early in October, Barnes, Jr. continued to show maturity and strength, once again placing his team in the top-five in qualifying. After starting fourth, Barnes drove smart, eyeing the championship, and hovered to claim fifth.

Heading into the season finale at Salem Speedway, Barnes was ready to win again, and claim the coveted Sunoco Super Series championship.

Barnes does it again, shattering the old track record by .154 seconds, Barnes played conservative at a tough track to collect his second top-five finish in a row. The top-five finish was meaningless for the second-generation driver. Even though Scott Hantz claimed a runner-up finish in the event, it wasn't enough as Barnes locked the 2004 Sunoco Super Series Championship by a comfortable 29-point margin.

It was the second championship for Barnes. But, this championship will mean a lot more to Barnes, than anyone else will ever know. "I don't know what to say," he said in Salem. "This is something I've been aiming for since the end of last year. We had a couple tough weekends this season, but in the end we prevailed; I can't say enough, Thanks to everyone who made this championship possible."

In addition to clinching the 2004 Sunoco Super Series championship, the team also claimed the 2004 Sunoco Super Series Owners Championship, with Chuck Barnes, Sr. calling the shots.

Of course, the sponsors are important in any series, but Barnes has personal feelings for each and every one of them. The No. 55 Chevrolet has been lucky to adore the logos of Clifty Farm Country Hams, Sunoco, Hawk Performance, Cintas Uniforms, Speed Media, and throughout the entire season, and Barnes is grateful. "To all my sponsors. Thank You. You believing in my team, our abilities and me somewhat overshadow this championship. Without you we would have not been able to put out such an incredible season. On behalf of our team, I thank you from the bottom of my heart."

Indeed, Chuck Barnes, Jr. didn't have just an incredible season, it's been called a dominating season. In 15 Sunoco events this season, Barnes collected four poles, one victory, eight top five finishes, and eleven top-ten finishes. The team also toped the season with 13 top-fifthteen credits, pretty impressive for a team that is considered under-funded.

As for the 2005 racing season, Barnes' plans are still undecided. "I would really like to move up," he explained. "I have to begin to make the next step in my career. I am going to do some extensive talking to some teams, and I hope that my future is looking bright, I think it is."

The ARCA RE/MAX Series or the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series are series the phenomenon is eyeing. "I've already been talking to some owners in both divisions, I have to be patience and let everything come to me. If we can't work out something full time next season, I'll still be doing some late model racing for sure."

Next up for Chuck Barnes, Jr will be the 2004 Sunoco Super Series Awards Banquet at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Indianapolis, Indiana on January 15th, 2005 where he will be officially crowned the 2004 champ.

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