Drag Illustrated Issue 173, December 2021 - Page 86

thought I ever wanted to race again , I really didn ’ t know . I told him , I said , ‘ Dad , I just don ’ t know right now , man .’ There ’ s a lot that you need to consider , but after getting out of the hospital and spending some time around the shop and going back to the racetrack for the first time , I knew I at least wanted to try ,” Barnett remembers . “ A year later , I was in a car and here we are at the end of 2021 , and I won two NHRA national events in Pro Mod , and I just don ’ t think it gets much more full circle than that .
“ There was nothing at the time that I could do to change what happened to me . I just had to pick up what I had left and keep moving forward , and I kept my head down and my nose to the grindstone . And I came out on top and have continued on that upward trajectory since then . You ’ ve got to lean on people . I mean , I had an unbelievable support system : my parents , my family , my friends . The drag racing community as a whole is a powerful thing . They did things for me that I never thought possible and it ’ s something that words will never be enough to thank them .
“ I hope I ’ ve got a long-standing career , that whether I spend it all in Pro Mod , or I continue to climb the ladder here , if I end up at Pro Stock or Top Fuel or wherever I end up , I just hope that I prove that you can come out of something really , really bad and make your way back to the top ,” Barnett says . “ We came from a 7.0 index bracket racer making my way through the radial ranks and qualified for all but one national event my rookie year and won two of them . So I just think it ’ s a really cool deal , and I ’ m excited to see kind of where 2022 takes us .”

IT DOESN ’ T TAKE MUCH prying for Barnett to reveal what ’ s No . 1 on his list for 2022 .

“ I ’ ve got my sights set on a freaking championship ,” Barnett says emphatically . “ I think coming off of this year and using the momentum , next year is looking pretty damn good .”
He believes he ’ s got the team , the sponsors and everything else needed to do it . The team heads into the new year committed to the turbocharger combination , which certainly makes them an anomaly in a Pro Mod category that will also add screw blowers to the mix as a fifth possible power adder in 2022 .
Barnett views it as an opportunity to stand out and he ’ s ready for
the challenge competing against the likes of Gray , Jackson , Gonzalez and others .
He notes the unique circumstance of competing against guys like Gray and Jackson , who , like Barnett , honed their craft in the outlaw ranks . Whether it was grudge racing or small-tire success , that trio became stars on and off the track , and Barnett sees a world of potential with what each brings to the table .
Jackson won back-to-back championships before finishing third a year ago , while Gray and Barnett finished fifth and sixth , respectively , in 2021 .
“ I think that myself , Stevie , and J . R . have a job to do . I think that us three have a weight on our shoulders to kind of keep this class in the forefront and make sure that it ’ s a topic of discussion when big names talk about NHRA drag racing ,” Barnett says . “ I talked about that with J . R . at the PRI Show . I said , ‘ Dude , we ’ ve got a unique opportunity here to take this class and do something cool with it . We ’ ve just got to keep talking about it and make sure we stay true to the personalities that we came into this class with and keep it alive , keep talking junk .’ I think you ’ re going to see all of us do well and finish within the top five , and I hope all three of us are battling it out in Dallas next year for the championship . I think it ’ s going to be entertaining and I think it ’ s going to be fun .”
The entertaining aspect is a big part of Barnett ’ s focus and he ’ s determined to become an even bigger star in the sport . Already a huge fan favorite in the sport , Barnett hasn ’ t been afraid to branch out and tackle new avenues , jumping at the chance to be on shows like Horsepower Wars and Netflix ’ s Fastest Car in previous years .
This season , it was competing at the 2.4 Hours of LeMullets with Jackson at the Freedom Factory and winning the burnout contest on a huge stage . That ’ s prompted Barnett to build his own burnout car specifically catered to those types of events , making it just another way Barnett hopes to build the sport .
It ’ s a tall task and a huge undertaking , but considering what Barnett has been through and overcome , doubt him at your own risk .
“ When you ’ re given opportunities like that , you ’ re a fool to not use that and to put yourself out there ,” Barnett offers . “ We ’ ve got to do a better job of attracting new fans and the younger generation . I think we ’ ve got a good opportunity to attract those younger fans and we ’ ve just got to take advantage of it .” DI
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