David Barton remained unbeaten with his third win of the season in the School of Automotive Machinists and Technology NHRA Factory Stock Showdown but unlike his first two wins in Gainesville and Englishtown, where he dominated, the engine builder took a slightly more conservative approach this time. Barton, driving the Wolkwitz Racing COPO Camaro, won the final round against two-time Comp national champ Bruno Massel 8.410 to 8.522, but he insists the race was far more competitive than the numbers would indicate.
“I wanted to make sure that we didn’t have any problems so I de-tuned the car quite a bit,” said Barton. “I ran really good in Englishtown but I think everyone else was off their game. I figured they’d all step up here. Once I saw how competitive it was, I figured I needed to step on it again. I really just wanted to make sure I didn’t hurt a bunch of parts during our busy time of the season.”
Two weeks ago in Englishtown, Barton ran an 8.25, the quickest Stock eliminator run to date at an NHRA event, but he knew going into the Norwalk race that no one was going to duplicate that performance, largely because of warm and humid weather. Barton made the necessary adjustments, but at the end of qualifying, his 8.472 was just third quickest, behind the 8.46-second runs of low qualifier John Calvert and second-ranked Massel.
Barton opened eliminations on Saturday with an 8.52 win over Austin Ford, who spun the tires. During Sunday’s mid-afternoon semifinal round, he downed the Cobra Jet of former Stock national champion and low qualifier Calvert, 8.406 to 8.54. Compared to Englishtown, where Barton’s car became an instant fan favorite with a series of towering wheelstands, the 1,200 horsepower factory muscle car was by comparison, well-behaved in Norwalk.
“I tuned it to add power after the 60-foot mark, not so much for the wheelstands but because I wanted to stay consistent with my reaction times,” said Barton. “I’ve never had any race car that was as comfortable as this one. It’s an absolutely dream to drive.”
Runner-up Massel, who is well known to NHRA race fans thanks to his role as a commentator on the Fox Sports 1 television broadcasts, felt as though he had a car that was equal to Barton’s in Englishtown but he struggled with tire spin. Massel drove his AutoGeek.net COPO to the final round after a lengthy starting line burndown against Chris Holbrook’s Watson Racing Cobra Jet in the semi’s. Massel won that round one the starting line with a .008 reaction time since he and Holbrook carded matching 8.578 elapsed times.
With three straight wins, Barton has established himself as the dominant driver in the School of Automotive Machinists and Technology NHRA Factory Stock Showdown but he admits that his season won’t be considered a success unless he wins the crown jewel in the four-race series, the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis.
“Indy is the big one” said Barton. “We’re going to be ready; we’re going to take this car completely apart and make sure everything is fresh. I also want to run a few [Lucas Oil Series] points meets because I think I have a chance to compete for the [Stock national championship] or at least get a top ten finish out of it.
“I get a lot of help with this car especially from Gary Wolkwitz, Mike Roth, Mickey Thompson tires, VP Fuels, Chevrolet, Joel’s on Joy, Diamond pistons, Bullet Cams, Whipple superchargers, and Holley EFI. We couldn’t do this without them.”