Barker Named No 77 Crew Chief
November 19, 2002 | 3:43 P.M. EST
Barker, 31, is a former chassis/shock specialist for the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team for four-time NASCAR Winston Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon (1999-2000) and for the #22 Bill Davis Racing team and driver Ward Burton (1998-99). He rejoined BDR in fall, 2000 as crew chief for Wimmer, then a recent graduate of the American Speed Association (ASA), and flourished in his first managerial role, guiding Wimmer to four NASCAR Busch Series victories and finishes of 11th and third, respectively, in the NBS standings (2000-2001) with limited sponsorship support.
"Every guy in my position wants to compete against the best, and this opportunity to work with the Jasper team and Dave gives me the platform to race against the best in the world every week in the Winston Cup Series" said Barker, who helped Gordon win five WC races at four different tracks in alliance with then-No. 24 crew chief Ray Evernham during his 15-month sabbatical to the No. 24 team between his two stints at BDR.
"People say it all the time in positive situations, but it really is a dream come true for me. I've worked with Dave before and we had success right from the start, so I know our communication and our ideas about the cars are on a similar level. I really enjoyed my time at Bill Davis Racing, and especially working with Scott. He's a star of the future, for sure, and that made this decision really tough.
"Bill and Gail Davis gave me a chance to find out whether I could run my own program and make all the decisions crew chiefs are faced with to make cars go fast. They always gave us everything we needed to race at the front every week, even though we didn't have the sort of sponsorships some other teams had. I'll never be able to thank them enough. But this chance with Dave is my chance to move forward and find out what I really can do against the best. That's what it's about for me."
A native of Halifax, Va., Barker began his motorsports career working on Late Model Stock Cars for current Busch Series regular Ashton Lewis while still in college. He graduated from Old Dominion University in 1996 with a degree in mechanical engineering. Prior to joining the #22 BDR team in 1998, Barker worked as a chassis specialist for owner Kurt Roehrig in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.
In guiding Wimmer in his Busch Series championship run during the 2002 season, Barker's BDR Pontiac entries earned BGN victories at Dover, Memphis, Phoenix and Miami in the final quarter of the season and posted 25 top-ten finishes in 70 total races with Wimmer (2000-02). Barker's entries also completed all but 345 of 6,546 total laps (including 274 laps in two of four DNFs) in 2002 and continued a two-season trend in which he helped Wimmer improve his start/finish ratio in 55 of the 60 races he finished, including all but three races this season.
Barker also directed a limited NASCAR Winston Cup Series program at BDR for Wimmer this season, including starts at Bristol and Phoenix. In his first career WC start, Wimmer finished 22nd (and led nine laps) in an unexpected debut with Crew Chief Barker at Atlanta (11/00) when his scheduled ARCA qualifying was rained out and Car Owner Davis opted for an attempt to make the WC field.
"We're excited about being able to add Robert to our race team, which we believe made significant strides with Dave in his first season in our cars," said Doug Bawel, President, Jasper Engines & Transmissions and co-owner of the No. 77 Jasper Ford.
""Bootie" brings with him great engineering expertise, but has also shown an ability to take his engineering skills and apply them to on-track performance with his drivers. In the past years, his cars helped Scott Wimmer challenge for the NASCAR Busch Series championship and win four of the last eight races of the season. We believe he certainly has the ability to take Jasper Motorsports to the next level."
For the 2003 season, Barker joins Blaney and a No. 77 Jasper Engines & Transmissions Ford team that was among the most improved NASCAR Winston Cup programs, finishing 19th in the final 2002 WC standings and dramatically improving its consistency in its first season with the former BDR driver.
"With his engineering background and what he's shown as a winning Busch Series crew chief over the past two seasons, Bootie was at the top of my list when we knew a change was going to be made with our crew chief position," said Blaney, who finished third at both Dover and Charlotte in fall, 2000 in BDR Busch Series entries as well as his final WC race for BDR in 2002 at Atlanta (qualified a career-best third, led 16 laps before engine failure) with Barker at the helm.
"He's worked with a championship-level Winston Cup program in an integral position and knows what it takes to build a program that can run at the front and win races. That's what we were looking for with the No. 77 Jasper team to help move us ahead even further after this season. We worked together in a few races at BDR and it was easy to see what his potentials were once he got the opportunity to run his own Winston Cup team. I can't wait to get started."