Matt Barnes has paid his dues on the race track and in the past two years, has begun to reap the rewards of hard work.
That’s because the second –generation racer (his dad is legendary racer Steve Barnes) started racing in Pure Stock at the Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville in 1999. He moved to the big track in 2000, where he ran Street Mods through 2003.
In 2004, he returned to the quarter mile, driving a Pure Stock for Preston White.
“We had the ’04 championship took from us and I thought I was going to quit,” he said. “So I started driving for Terry Swift at Highland Rim.”
But the allure of Nashville called and he returned to the Fairgrounds in 2008, when he came back in the Thunderstock division. He ran that until 2010.
Since then, he’s run the Super Stocks, taking wins and even the 2014 championship.
“We’ve won a race about every year except, ’01, ’02, and ’03,” he said. “In 2010, I didn’t finish a race at all. We went to Huntsville, The Rim, Bowling Green (Ky.), Nashville and I couldn’t finish a race.”
Things changed the next year when he “hooked up with Willie Coats who let me use his storage building to work on my car,” Barnes said. “Until then, I had just used whoever’s garage. I used Willie’s storage building from 2011 through 2014. I worked out of it and got better and better.”
Coats sold the units, but luckily, Barnes found a house with a garage so he can work on his car at home.
He returns to the Super Stock division in 2015, partly because “it’s all I can afford. We do have another car, a Sportsman, but (Nashville) is talking about changing the rules, so we’re holding up on that.”
Barnes said he enjoys working on the cars with his crew through the week and racing on the weekends is “just a bonus. I like having fun and competing. I like knowing I can drink a cold beer after 30 laps.”
“Cold Beer” has become his nickname, if you will, since his crew put it on the car a few years ago.
“One of my crew wanted to put his wife’s name on the car, and I said if I do that, I’d have to put my girlfriend and my mom’s name on the car, so we figured since we drank a lot of cold beer while working on the car, we’d just put ‘cold beer’ on there. And it stuck. The fans didn’t know who I was, but they’d be pulling for the ‘cold beer’ car.”
Barnes’ sponsors are Mr. B’s Trucking, George Dewis Masonry, Levi Hanks, Smithson Signs, DP Amusement and Pools by John.
His crew consists of Gene Woods, who Barnes said has made the “biggest difference in getting me to go fast. I hooked up with him through friend of mine and since he’s come along, we’ve done well.” Other crew members include Barnes’ dad Steve and Chad Bush.