Charles Barrett, a Hall of Fame short track ace and former NASCAR driver, passed away on Friday.
The Cleveland, Georgia native scored the win in approximately 250 short track features, including 27 Late Model Sportsman victories in 1972.
He saw much success as a competitor at Anderson Motor Speedway in Williamston, South Carolina, where he was the track champion for three straight years (1968, 1969 and 1970). In addition, he won several championship events at the speedway between 1967 and 1972.
That success caught the attention of car owner George Elliott of Dawsonville, Georgia – the grandfather of current Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Chase Elliott. Barrett would compete in several NASCAR Cup Series events for Elliott, turning in a 10th place effort at Talladega Superspeedway in 1973 and an 18th place finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway that same year.
“My brother-in-law carried me to a race at Looper Speedway (Gainesville Speedway),” Barrett told racing historian Mike Bell in a 2011 interview for Georgia Racing History.com. “I was probably 12 years old and I knew that day right then that that was what I wanted to do.”
Barrett started his career racing at Georgia’s Toccoa Raceway and Banks County Speedway. He would move up to the Late Model ranks, winning at Anderson, Tri-County Speedway in North Carolina and Georgia’s Athens Speedway and Winder-Barrow Speedway, among others.
He scored wins and titles all while remaining loyal to Ford. While other drivers moved to Chevrolet and the short track suited Chevelle, Barrett continued to campaign and win in Fords, moving to the venerable Fairlane.
“I built my own chassis on the Fairlane,” Barrett told Mike Bell in 2011. “I went up to Holman & Moody and I guess they thought they saw an ole’ Georgia Cracker. I told them I wanted a 351 Boss engine. They wanted to sell me their shocks and springs and sway bars. I was planning on lapping the second place car I was spending so much money.”
Barrett got the chance to drive a Ford for George Elliott on the NASCAR Cup circuit in 1973. In all he ran four races, with a best finish coming at Talladega on May 6. After avoiding a multi-car crash on lap 10 that took out several of the favorites in the 60 car starting field, Barrett found he was leading the pack. He would hold the point for nine laps before having to pit with a deflating tire. He would finish 10th in the end.
The Elliott team, with Barrett driving, attempted other races at Daytona and Charlotte, but mechanical issues kept the team from making those events.
“I didn’t have any wrecks on the big tracks but I had a hard time coming in the pits,” Barrett told Mike Bell in 2011. “You don’t realize how fast you are going when you have to stop at your pit. I overran my pit the first time at Atlanta but I got use to it before the end of the race. But at Talladega where you are going so fast you just don’t realize it. That was before they put a speed limit on pit road.”
Barrett’s racing career came to an end after he was injured in a road accident in Dahlonega, Georgia. He turned his attention to his son, Mitchell Barrett, and his racing career, along with the rest of his family. Barrett also focused on his used car business near his hometown, which he had worked in since 1965.
In 2013, Barrett was recognized for his racing achievements by being inducted into the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame in Dawsonville, Georgia.
Charles Barrett passed away on January 11 at the age of 80. Funeral services are scheduled for 2:00 PM Monday, January 14 at the Chattahoochee Baptist Church in Cleveland, Georgia.
Barrett Funeral Home in Cleveland, Georgia is in charge of arrangements.