FARMINGTON — Sprint car racing has a rich heritage in Southeast Missouri. One local racer, Alan Barton, is working to share that story on an international stage.
For the fourth time A B Motorsports, owned by Alan Barton, will have a race car on display at the SEMA auto show in Las Vegas the first week of November. Then in December his Hedman Hedders car will be given away in a drawing during the Performance Racing Industry, or PRI, show in Florida.
The SEMA show is billed as the “premier automotive specialty products trade event in the world,” and is not open to the general public. In a few short days some 100,000 industry leaders and representatives work their way through the more than two million square feet of exhibition space inside and outside the Las Vegas Convention Center. More than 50,000 buyers from around the globe turn out to look at, touch, and learn more about the estimated 2,000 new parts, tools and other products for the aftermarket automotive industry.
The Barton-built 2010 Eagle chassis, 360 cu. in. powered sprint car designed specifically for Hedman Hedders is sitting in the lobby of Turner Chevrolet in Park Hills, where Barton works during the day. The car, built during the evenings and weekends at A B Motorsports shop in Farmington, will soon go on a tour of races and trade shows throughout 2011 before being handed over to one lucky winner in December.
The PRI show is held in Orlando, Fla. in December. It draws an estimated 45,000 buyers from an about 50 countries with 1,500 companies on average with exhibits on display.
Hedman Hedders commissioned Barton to build the giveaway car. While it features performance parts from a list of well-known manufacturers, it’s meant to be a showcase for Hedman’s new sprint car header product line. The car wears a pair of exhaust headers designed by Hedman’s engineers and Barton working together over the past few years.
Barton says Hedman Hedders recently began offering the line of sprint car headers through the company’s website, and is using the car as a promotional tool. The complete sprint car line of headers and related products will be unveiled in April. Anyone who purchases a set of Hedman’s sprint car headers in 2011 will automatically be included in the drawing for the car.
Prior to Barton’s affiliation with the company, Hedman Hedders was a major player in the professional drag racing scene and other motorsports — and was used by Bob Chandler’s Bigfoot monster trucks from their inception — but didn’t offer applications specifically for sprint cars. Now the company has several sprint car products with more being developed.
Barton began circle track racing in 2005. It was an incident a short time later that quickly elevated his name among the sport … but not in a planned way. Driver Brandon Wimmer was in one of Barton’s cars at a televised race. Wimmer had a horrific rollover crash which ended up being played repeatedly on a national cable channel and garnered a great deal of airtime on both television and the Internet.
As for SEMA, Barton first went to the annual show in 1997. By 2007 he had become acquainted with the Hedman Hedders representatives. To that point there had never been a sprint car at a SEMA show. The entire week-long event is to showcase aftermarket automotive products, and manufacturers use elaborate displays including show cars to display their wares.
Hedman Hedders asked Barton to use his car in the company’s booth as SEMA in 2008. The car builder went to work and delivered his highly polished and powered #7TW sprint car to the convention center on time. The blue sprint car was an eye catcher to say the least.
A new A B Motorsports-built car returned to SEMA in 2010 and 2011, and will be back in 2012.
Barton has said it’s attention to details and the “business” of motorsports which has helped him gain inroads at SEMA. His time in racing and the SEMA connections has resulted in a long list of working relationships with some of the country’s top manufacturers of racing equipment. In addition to Hedman Hedders he’s also forged working relationships with K&N Filters, Red Line Oil, Surf City Wax Company and several others.
This past year A B Motorsports fielded two cars. Races at St. Francois County Raceway were handled by well-known local driver Tommy Worley and his crew. The other car, the 7 AB, Hedman Hustler, ran at Knoxville Raceway, in Knoxville, Iowa, driven by Billy Alley. In 2010 the Hedman Hustler car made the A Main at the Knoxville Nationals driven by Brandon Wimmer. That marked the first time a car from this area had ranked that high in the well-known Knoxville race. Barton tries to help both crews keep the cars in good shape and do as much hands-on work as possible during the race year.
But the real place Barton feels comfortable is at his shop building new cars. He oversees all construction and handles the painting duties himself. He leaves the initial engine work to a builder who specializes in that area. In 2009 he designed his own model of sprint car radiator. They are now manufactured and marketed under the A B Motorsports name.
Aside from building cars for racing, and cars for Hedman Hedders to display at trade shows and races, Barton was also asked to build a car to be displayed in the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame and Museum in Knoxville. That car is on display and will be auctioned off someday.
Barton says he’d like to see the St. Francois County and surrounding region promote itself to the automotive aftermarket manufacturing world. He believes many companies that frequent SEMA and PRI would entertain the idea of bringing manufacturing operations to the Midwest. He hopes he can be a good representative of the region as he continues to grow his working relationships at the shows each fall and throughout the year.
Doug Smith is a reporter for the Daily Journal. You can reach him at 573-756-8927, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.