A Middlesboro native recently competed in what is called “the biggest one day off-road race in the world.”
Chris “Chicky” Barton competed in the Griffin King of the Hammers in California on Feb. 8. He finished in third place.
According to Barton, people from all over the world visit California to compete in the once a year race. They come from Canada, Great Britain, Italy and Australia, to name only a few.
It took Barton just over eight hours to complete the course.
“It’s one of those races you have to be mentally and physically prepared for,” said Barton. “You have to drive smart.”
The race is no cake walk to enter. Drivers must compete in qualifying races throughout the year in order to compete in the race. Barton qualified after finishing fourth in a qualifying race in July.
He qualified for the 24th starting position.
Barton stated 130 drivers qualified, but only 27 cars finished the race.
Barton explained the race lived up to its name of “the most brutal off-road race.”
“It came to the point where my neck restraint rubbed two blisters to the side of my neck to where they were bleeding,” said Barton.
He also mentioned the seat belts rubbed blisters on his shoulder.
Barton said he went to California a week early to practice the course. He had downloaded the track to his GPS and marked certain spots of the track.
The King of the Hammers race is part of the Ultra 4 racing series — an endurance racing series.
In preparation for the event, Barton stated he entered 12 different races in the 2012 season. He raced in the East Coast Off-Road Series (ECORS) and the Dirtwise Off-Road Endurance Racing Series.
He also raced in two or three Ultra 4 races.
When competing in races, Barton said he practiced each weekend.
After each race, Barton takes his car apart — going through it, rebuilding the engine, checking and fixing everything that needs repaired or changed.
“I put a lot of time into it,” said Barton about his success in endurance racing. Barton gets off work everyday at 3:30 p.m. and then works on his car in the garage until around 2 to 3 a.m. every morning. He then gets up around 6 a.m. and does it all again the next day.
“When I get in the car, it’s a totally different feeling,” said Barton. “It’s like you get in the seat and everything goes blank.”
Barton said he has a lot of people backing him at this time in his racing career. BF Goodrich tires pitted for him during the King of the Hammers race. His other sponsors include Tire Ball Company, Monster Energy, Cumberland Gap Water, 4130 Clothing and KMC Wheels.
Barton started racing in ECORS and Ultra 4 races by participating in rock crawling. He stated he was always interested in “the other side” of the sport.
One day Randy Rod, owner of Jimmy’s Outback 4x4 in Cortez, Colo., contacted Barton, stating he wanted Barton to drive one of his cars. Barton said the car Rod built him would probably cost $100,000 today, but he was only charged $30,000. He went to Utah to pick up the car.
Barton said the first time he raced in the car he won sixth place honors. Following that award, he raced in his first ECORS race and won first place.
The trend continued as Barton won each ECORS race in 2012, earning him the ECORS championship title.
ECORS is the lower-level of the Ultra 4 racing series.
In his first Ultra 4 race in Pine Grove, Pa., Barton’s car broke down. He stated he broke both front axle shafts at the same time. He rebounded from that race to qualify for the King of the Hammers race.
Barton has two upcoming races — March 9 in Indiana and March 23 in Tennessee.
Anthony Cloud can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 606-248-1010, ext. 208.