It’s been a long time coming for small-tire big shot Stephen Barnett, but after racking up a huge list of accomplishments, the man from Royse City, Texas, is ready to tackle NMRA Edelbrock Renegade for his 2021 season.
Barnett began by bracket racing at a local track just a few miles from his home while he was in high school.
“I was really intrigued by heads-up racing and going as fast as you can within a given set of rules,” he explained. After attending his first NMRA race in Dallas, Texas, in 2003, he knew he had found his place. By 2009, he began building his ’90 Ford Mustang for Limited 275 competition. Barnett wound up absolutely dominating the Texas scene, taking home tons of wins, records, and even multiple championships titles along the way in Limited 275 and Ultra Street.
As often happens, though, Barnett found he needed to take a step back to focus on adult life and sold off the Fox body he had owned since high school. He continued driving for other people, though, and quickly decided he couldn’t stay away.
“I bought Shawn Pevlor’s car in 2018 and won a few races in Limited 275 with it,” Barnett elaborated of the combination he ran on nitrous up until 2020 when he converted the ’93 Mustang to a ProCharger supercharger instead. “I had always wanted to run in NMRA, but being in Texas, it was tough to travel so far, especially with my work schedule.”
Fortunately, Barnett has been blessed with great managers at his job at a major collision center in the Dallas area, and they are willing to be more flexible with his schedule now. So, he’s taking advantage of the opportunity and has committed to chasing the NMRA Edelbrock Renegade points championship in 2021.
Barnett started his year off on a good foot, racing at the 27th Annual BMR Suspension NMRA Spring Break Shootout at Bradenton Motorsports Park in Florida over the weekend of March 5-7, 2021. There, he qualified third out of sixteen cars with a 4.594 at 50.72mph pass and even ran the quickest pass of the class’s history in the first round of eliminations with a 4.548 at 148.43mph effort, but did not get the win in the next pairing.
“We had some bad luck,” said the driver of how round two played out. “About 3-seconds into the run, the plug backed out of my switch panel and killed the ignition power. We had the car to win for sure, but… who doesn’t?”
His Fox body runs on an alcohol-fueled 427ci small-block Ford engine that was built by Jeff Naiser. The powerplant belongs to a friend of Barnett’s, so one of his own is currently in the works at Tony Bischoff’s BES Racing Engines.
“That will be a 434ci Trick Flow high port-headed, small-block Ford with the F-1A-94 ProCharger as well, and it should be in by the end of the year,” noted Barnett, whose combination also includes a Haltech Elite 2500 EFI system. “The headers and fabrication in the front was all done by Wasp Performance.”
Transferring the ProCharged power to the ground is a three-speed from Dave Klaput at Proformance Racing Transmissions, although a new three-speed Turbo 400 from Rodney Massengale at RPM Transmissions will be behind the BES bullet when that goes in. The unchanging variable in Barnett’s combination since day one with the car, though, has been a U9 torque converter from Joe Rivera’s ProTorque, which has been “flawless” according to the driver.
To keep his historic Mustang planted firmly on the 660-foot racing surface, the rear suspension and rearend have been enhanced with TRZ Motorsports components while the front features parts from Racecraft Inc.
“We still run the 8.8” rearend,” added Barnett, whose Mustang utilizes a stock-style suspension with factory mounting points in-tact. “We’ve got double-adjustable shocks with canisters all the way around from Menscer Motorsports, plus TBM brakes on the car.”
After the unexpected issue at Bradenton, Barnett headed home to regroup and, after a few small tweaks, feels confident that both he and his car will be ready for the Scoggin-Dickey Parts Center NMRA/NMCA All-Star Nationals presented by MAHLE Motorsport at Atlanta Dragway in early April.
Ultimately, he knows that making each race on the Holley NMRA Ford Nationals calendar will be a big part of whether or not he’s able to make good on his championship goal, and Barnett is grateful he’s got a solid team on his side to do it, including Jason Waterman who assists with power management, as well as crew men Chad Baker and Mike Kennemer.