Speedbowl Community Rewards Soldier, Racer
Steve Barrett honored during opening ceremonies of May 4 event program
Waterford, CT (May 4, 2013) – With not a cloud in the sky above, a memorable opening ceremony embarked on those gathered at the Waterford Speedbowl on Saturday. A group of enthusiasts within the Speedbowl community unveiled what countless hours of passion and dedication can do to show their appreciation to a returning soldier, Speedbowl racer Steve Barrett. Barrett was surprised with a brand new Street Stock racecar before the Speedbowl community, his extended family and friends, creating a touching moment that exhibited the best in humanity.
Barrett, of Preston, destroyed his car competing in a Street Stock race at the Speedbowl last year in late April. His unit, the National Guard’s 1109th Theater Aviation Sustainment Maintenance Group based out of Groton, was activated for duty in June and deployed to Afghanistan in July 2012. Barrett spent the next 10 months overseas defending freedoms for his country. In his spare time, he purchased a remote control car to tinker with as he contemplated the future of his wrecked racecar and racing career. Back home, friends and loved ones spent that same time building Barrett a new car, unbeknownst to him.
“Racers for a Soldier” was born, the idea of Jeff and Julie Winsor of Moosup. After consulting with Barrett’s wife Teresa, a pit steward at the track who ultimately blessed and supported their idea, the Winsors went to work. Jeff and Julie began fundraising at the track and through raffles and spaghetti dinners, while Jeff spearheaded a team of individuals to put in the volunteer hours necessary to fabricate the car. In all, well over 1,000 hours by a group dubbed “The Fab 5” went into the project that started with a bare frame donated by a fellow racer. A new roll cage and body were created by hand. A completely rebuilt drivetrain was donated from the most well-known builders in their trades. It all culminated in the surprise unveiling before Saturday’s racing.
Barrett’s unit returned from duty April 27th. He was lured to the front stretch before the crowd on Saturday to lead everyone in the Pledge of Allegiance after being welcomed home and recognized for his service. What Barrett didn’t know was more was in the works. As Barrett was presented with other gifts including a brand new firesuit and even an invitation to renew wedding vows from his wife, Jeff Winsor got into the driver’s seat of his dream and wheeled it out the third turn gate onto the track boasting an American flag.
With a large crowd gathered on the front stretch around Barrett, his new racecar didn’t come into his view until it rounded turn four. The car, numbered Barrett’s customary #14, stopped in front of him to the rousing applause from the Speedbowl crowd and loved ones gathered by his side. In what turned out as a “you had to be there” moment to garner its full impact, the Speedbowl community behind “Racers for a Soldier” pulled off one of the most inspiring and rewarding, as well as best kept secrets, in the track’s 63-year storied history.
Only fitting, the Street Stock division was the highlight of the night’s NASCAR Whelen All-American Series program. The division was scheduled for a 50-lap feature, double its normal distance, well before Barrett’s return date was even learned. Barrett’s car was even practiced at the track earlier in the week to be certain it was in race trim if he decided to race. Like a true racer and warrior, Barrett put the emotional enormity of what had just transpired aside to make the decision to strap in and compete. He was granted 10 laps of practice during the program by Speedbowl officials prior to the division’s feature, the nightcap on the event. Barrett stayed out of trouble all race and finished all 50 laps in 11th position, cementing his return home.