Following a dominant season that has so-far included two wins in three final round appearances, David Barton has officially clinched the season championship in the School of Automotive Machinists and Technology NHRA Factory Stock Showdown. Barton was officially crowned the champion following his first-round win over points rival Chuck Watson in the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals in St. Louis.
“This is what we’ve worked for all year long; I’m glad we finally got it done,” said Barton. “We felt pretty good coming in here but you never know for sure until it’s over. Actually, I thought we had it clinched after Indy, but later I found out that wasn’t the case. I’m just glad it didn’t drag out any longer than it did.”
Barton kicked off the 2017 season with a win at the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals and also scored a second victory at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals in Indy. Barton was also a runner-up to his engine customer Pete Gasko Jr. in the NHRA Four Wide event in Charlotte. So far in 2017, Barton has a 10-2 record in Factory Stock events. He lost on a holeshot to Gasko in Charlotte and was outrun by Chuck Watson in the Norwalk final.
“I’m proud of the fact that I’ve made it down the track on almost every run except for the last two here [in St. Louis],” said Barton. “We’ve also done really well in qualifying. For someone who builds engines, that is really important for us. We’ve had a great year with a lot of our engine customers like Pete Gasko, Scott Libersher, and Waldemar Rodriguez. They’ve also been really competitive.”
At the season-ending event at Gateway Motorsports Park, Barton qualified in the No. 3 spot with an 8.110. That set-up a crucial round one match against points rival Watson, who was sixth quickest with an 8.175. What should have been one of the best side-by-side races of the day ended early when Watson trigged the red-light. That was welcomed by Barton, who spun the tires in his Gary Wolkwitz-owned COPO Camaro and slowed to an 8.971 at just 123.97 mph.
“I knew instantly that he’d red-lighted,” said Barton. “I actually did what I could to play the game; I staged a little quicker than I normally would. I didn’t expect to spin the tires so bad; we’ve done that the last two runs. I’m not sure what the problem is but we need to fix it.”
Watson, whose company Watson Racing has played an integral role in the development and production of the Cobra Jet Mustangs, opened the season with a runner-up finish in Gainesville and vaulted himself into championship contention when he claimed his first Factory Stock victory at the Summit Racing NHRA Nationals in Norwalk.
Earlier in the day, NHRA announced that the SAM Tech Factory Stock Showdown would be expanded to seven events for 2018. The new schedule includes stops in Bristol and Dallas and will feature 16-car fields at every race. The new format will also separate the Factory Stock cars from traditional Stock Eliminator entries at national events.
“I’m really happy to hear about next year,” said Barton. “This class has been growing and the way I see it, the sky is the limit. We’ve got support from the manufacturers and we’re bringing a lot of new racers into NHRA. I’m also grateful to be the first real champion in the class. I’m really out here just living the dream.”