- August 30, 2021
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The racing season at Huset’s Speedway is scheduled to begin on May 9, and for the first time in a long time, there won’t be a Barber on the grid.
Brandon native sprint car driver Tommy Barber, son of longtime driver Marty Barber, announced his retirement — sort of — during the offseason.
Marty began racing at Huset’s in 1975 and over his 25-year career, the now 62-year-old won seven track championships in the Street Stock division and is fourth all-time in career wins with 52.
Tommy was quick to follow his father’s path and began racing as a 15-year-old sophomore at Brandon Valley High School in 2005. He was also a quick study, having success just like his father. Tommy is 14th all time in career wins at the track with 33 and won the 360-sprint car championship in 2014.
But as it is for every person enjoying extra-curricular activities, sometimes life gets in the way. Tommy and his girlfriend, Kelley, are parents to 5-month-old son Callum, which changes things for a race car driver. The couple is also saving money to build a new house north of Tea.
The combination of those life events, coupled with Huset’s decision to not run the 360-sprint car class on a full time basis this year helped Barber make his decision.
“When that decision came out about the 360s, I pretty much said the hell with it,” Barber said. “I’ve got so much going on right now. I just can’t do it.”
Although having Callum at home is a life-changer, Barber said it’s unlikely it would have changed his driving style should he have continued. From the Indianapolis 500 to local weekend warrior drivers in the Hobby Stock class, when a race car driver competing in such a dangerous sport has a child, driving styles tend to change. There’s now something to lose, but Barber said he doesn’t see it that way.
“I don’t think I’d race or drive any differently,” Barber said. “If something stupid’s going to happen, it’s going to happen either way.”
It won’t be the first time Tommy has been sidelined during his 15-year career. Unlike many well-financed teams, the Barber Racing Team had limited resources. If he ever crashed, or lost an engine due to failure, his racing was in jeopardy until new equipment was found, or funds were raised.
That, he said, wasn’t easy.
“If I had to sit out a week and had to sit in the grandstands and watch everybody I was supposed to race against, it sucked,” he said.
But he’ll be relegated to watching this year, but at least he’ll do it in style. Barber works as a semi-truck detailer for another former sprint car driver, Dylan Peterson at The American Truck Store in Hartford.
As a Christmas present, Peterson bought his five employees full season suite packages at Huset’s, and Barber said he’ll be watching from inside the comforts of the Turn 1 suite.
“That’ll be nice because we can take the baby,” he said. “But it’s still going to hurt. I was completely fine about the decision until I started seeing people post pictures of their new race cars for the new season. That’s when it started to hit me.”
Barber sold almost all of his racing equipment during the off-season. He still has his helmet, driving suit and a 360 engine. So who knows, the retirement may not be short-lived.
“I won’t be done forever, but there’s no way I can afford to race and build a house and do it all,” he said.
For Marty, who’s helped with Tommy’s racing career from the start, he’ll most likely still be around Huset’s this summer. But it will be strange for fans not to see father and son around the familiar No. 75 sprint car.
“I’m a little bummed, but there are better things to come,” Marty said. “He’s got a kid now and has more things to worry about.”
1. Terry McCarl – 102
2. Gary Brown Jr. – 75
3. Mark Dobmeier – 67
4. Marty Barber – 52
5. Danny Lasoski – 42
6. Colter Deutsch – 41
7. Jody Rosenboom – 37
Darrin Korthals – 37
9 . Micah Schliemann – 36
10. Harold Petree – 35
Dustin Gulbranson – 35
12. Harry Torgerson – 34
13. Leland Van Emmerik – 35
14. Tommy Barber – 33
Craig Hanisch – 33