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Building Barn-Burning Speed—Charlie Barnes put his years of experience crewing for other racers to good use in his own heads-up racecar

Written By Steve Baur

Photography By Kevin DiOssi

While Hughesville, Maryland’s Charlie Barnes may have just got his feet wet in heads-up racing with the NMRA this year, he’s been around cars and helping out on them since he was 8 years old. Now, he’s finally put all of that experience and knowledge to work on his own racing program and his bright red 2013 Boss 302 Mustang that he currently campaigns in the NMRA’s ProCharger Modified Street category.

“I’ve been around drag racing and going to the races with my father since I was 8 years old,” Barnes told us. “My dad never could afford to drive, but took great pleasure in what he did as a crewmember and getting the car to work on track. I’ve been crewing on and off ever since then.” And crew for some top NMRA racers he has.

Around give years ago, Barnes met up with Justin Burcham and Eric Holliday of JPC Racing after he was unsatisfied with the work on his street car by a previous shop. He started hanging out with the JPC crew and after a while, started going to the races with them as well.

“I crewed and helped JPC with Jeff Polivka, Tony Hobson, and John Kauderer. Eventually, though, Barnes decided to get into the driver’s seat and kept his eyes open for a suitable ride. He didn’t have to look very far, as the 2013 Boss 302 Mustang was built for another JPC customer.

“I became mutual friends with the previous owner, Lance Rainey,” Barnes told us. “I had helped him in Memphis at the first Mod Nationals race, and he won that race, running mid 7s with the car.” A deal was eventually struck in the fall of 2017.

“When I bought it, it was a Real Street Car Shootout car with a Precision Pro Mod 88mm turbo,” Barnes explained. His intention was to run the local Real Street series with the car, as well as qualify for the World Cup race in Maryland with this new ride.

“In helping Jeff and John run against Haley James and Tommy Annunziata in Coyote Modified, I didn’t think I’d be able to compete with them,” Barnes said of his option to compete in the NMRA series. “I was working on it for that Real Street class and saw that Coyote Modified was going away and being replaced with Modified Street, which had different rules. They were very close to the Real Street rules, so I decided to try it out and that way I would be able to hang out with my NMRA family and friends.”

Barnes purchased the Mustang knowing it needed a bit of transmission work done to the Trans Specialties-built, JPC Powerglide and once that was sorted out and he began testing the car, he sent the Coyote engine back to Rich Groh Racing to be freshened up.

As you can tell from the photos, Barnes likes his ride nice and clean, and to that end, he struck up a sponsorship deal with Tommy Keeney at Maryland Collision Center.

“He stepped up to give me a hand doing all of the bodywork,” Barnes said. “They did an amazing job.” Adding to the impressive-looking exterior is the work on the carbon fiber front bumper performed by Speed Design, who created the grille graphics that make it look like a real street car. Barnes also credits his relationship with Damian Borroto at Belak Industries, who built the custom wheels for the car.

“They have some of the highest quality machine work on the wheel,” Barnes noted.

The Northrup Grumman contractor who has worked on a few different contracts in support of the Department of Defense, turned to Kelly Aiken at BMR Suspension when it came time to update the back half of the car.

“I worked with Kelly at BMR Suspension on Tony’s car, my car, and my teammate Mike Ciborowski’s car,” Barnes explained of his stock-style, three-link setup that features BMR bars top to bottom.

While Barnes and his partners were busy building the Boss towards the NMRA class rules, the 2019 season was coming up fast and no sooner did he get the car on the JPC dyno than he stuffed it in the trailer and headed south for the season opener in Bradenton, Florida.

Being basically untested as far as making any passes down the trip, the result was less than ideal.

“We fought electrical and datalogger issues and didn’t get it figure out until the first round of eliminations and went out then,” Barnes recalled. Things took a turn for the better at the next race in Atlanta, as Barnes and crew made changes between the races and the car began to improve on every run.

“I was very pleased to make progress with it every pass, but we realized we were running out of power with the current combination and decided to change to the transmission to a Turbo 400,” Barnes told us. “We have a Proformance Racing Transmissions Turbo 400 going in it now. Dave and Doug at Proformance are amazing. They stepped in and put us in a completely different direction—they’re great to work with.”

Something else that has seemingly changed in Barnes’ favor is the mid-season rules changes that came out for the ProCharger Modified Street category.

“I should be more competitive with the current combination,” Barnes cheered. “The mid season rules changes took 150 lbs off my combination, which should help. So I’m looking forward to it.”

Before then, however, Barnes refuses to go to another race without getting some testing under his belt. With his timeline to complete the changes as well as some family obligations keeping him busy, he’ll sit out the NMRA Ford Motorsport Nationals at the end of June, and is looking at making his return at the Super Bowl of Street Legal Drag Racing in Joliet, Illinois, in July.

“I refuse to go to another race without testing,” Barnes exclaimed. “We plan to test before Joliet and then race there. The Super Bowl is one of my favorite races of the year and getting a Super Bowl ring would be awesome!”

With the changes and some testing in hand, Barnes hopes to be in the front of the competitive, fledgling class.

“I need to be able to be competitive; at least give me the opportunity to be in the final round. With the current combination that the NMRA has given us, we’re getting closer. I’m not sure I have enough to run a low 7.70, but I’m getting closer.”

Helping him get closer will be Barnes’ number-one crewmember, his wife, Michelle.

“I couldn’t do any of this without her. She’s not even a car chick, but helps out immensely—she’s one of the best crew members I’ve ever worked worth.”

The Details


Owner/ Driver: Charlie Barnes

Hometown: Hughesville, Maryland

Occupation: Department of Defense contractor with Northrop Grumman

Class: NMRA Modified Street

Crew: Michelle Barnes (wife/pit boss), Eric Holliday (tuner/advisor)

Sponsors: Justin’s Performance Center, Maryland Collision Center, DJ Safety, Belak Industries Racing Wheels, BMR Suspensions, Speed Design, DJ Safety Equipment



Year, make, and model: 2013 Boss 302 Mustang

Body and/or chassis builder: Ford Motor Company

Suspension (Front): Afco shocks

Suspension (Rear): Viking Shocks and BMR Anti-Roll bar

Brakes (Front) Brand:Strange           Disc/Drum:

Brakes (Rear) Brand:  Strange            Disc/Drum:

Wheels (front) Brand:Belak Industries Racing Wheels  Size: 17×4.5

Wheels (Rear) Brand:  Belak Industries Racing Wheels  Size: 15×10

Tires (Front) Brand:   Mickey Thompson     Size: 27.5/4.0/17 ET Front

Tires (Rear) Brand:     Mickey Thompson     Size: 275/60/15 ET Street R

Body modifications:  Car painted by Maryland Collision Center, Grill/decal work by Speed Design

Fiberglass/Carbon body components: Carbon Fiber front bumper, rear deck lid, wing and dash.

Safety equipment:  DJ Safety chute and fire suit.



Engine: Coyote Mod Motor

Engine builder: RGR (Rich Groh Racing)

Displacement:305 ci

Block:  stock/sleeved

Bore: 3.640

Stroke: stock

Crank: stock

Rods: Oliver 5.933

Pistons: Diamond Pistons

Cylinder heads: JPC Stage 3


Camshaft—Brand:      RGR    Type: Custom ground

EFI system: AEM Infinity 8 Engine Management System, AMS 2000 NLR boost controller

Power-adder: Precision 76/85 Turbo

Fuel brand and type: VP Q16

Spark plug brand:  Brisk

Headers and exhaust: JPC Custom Built Turbo kit

Transmission: TH400 (installed prior to Maple Grove)

Transmission Builder: Proformance Racing Transmissions

Clutch/shifter/torque converter: Pro Torque Gen X bolt-together converter

Rearend: Ford 8.8

Differential: Spool


Vehicle Stats

Vehicle weight: 3,250 lbs (revision prior to Maple Grove)

Quickest et: 8.21

Best 60-foot: 1.24

Fastest mph:  171