“Sometimes you’ve got to be lucky,” the Nampa, Idaho racecar driver said after winning the perpetual trophy for the third time in its five-year history at ASA-sanctioned Meridian Speedway.
Following Barton’s lead, Domino’s Pizza Legends fast-time driver Mike Cullum of Meridian, Idaho, won the 35-lap Domino’s Pizza Legends feature in early action.
Save for 2010 Challenge champion Kenny Chandler Jr., Barton walked away from the field in every one of the three segment races on Military Appreciation Night.
Then, he showed his appreciation for another important segment of the population.
“I’ve got one thing to say. Tomorrow’s Mothers Day, and this is for my wife and my mom,” Barton said as he hoisted the trophy into the air in Victory Lane.
Another mother got the surprise of the night when Sr. Airman Tanner Volkers went from the airport straight to the racetrack to reunite with his parents – Gary and Melissa Volkers of Nampa. Tanner Volkers had just returned from a 6½-month deployment in Qatar in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
“It feels amazing,” Tanner Volkers said upon returning from his deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Combined JTT Horn of Africa.
“I’m ready to be back and be back to normal.”
Mom, dad and son walked off the racing surface toward the Turn 4 gate arm-and-arm.
Before the heat races started, track management and race fans paid tribute to the branches of the U.S. military – Coast Guard, Marines, Army, Navy and Air Force. There was a procession of military vehicles, a color guard from the Idaho National Guard and a flyover by a pair of P-51 Mustangs World War II-era fighter planes.
Barton, who won the Challenge in 2009 and 2011, dueled with Chandler – the 2010 champion – in the first of three 33-lap segments earlier in the night.
The two men were wheel-to-wheel for the restart with 17 laps to go after rookie Larry Hull III of Boise spun out on the backstretch while leading the race.
Barton and Chandler pulled away from the field, but Barton maintained a two-car-length lead throughout the second half of the race.
The second segment race had a similar finish as Barton and Chandler worked to the front after another spin by Hull. Barton passed fellow Nampan Chet Thorson for the lead on the restart after Hull’s yellow flag and pulled away to a four-second cushion against Chandler.