Go looking for Eric Barron's truck by reading the name on the doors, and you won't find it. Most every driver in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series puts his or her name on the top of the door-shaped fiberglass panel. But not Eric Barron. Find the No. 32 white Toyota with little sponsorship signage. Just know that the top of the door is more likely to say “Shooter McGavin” from the movie Happy Gilmore, “Ricky Bobby” from the movie Talladega Nights, Mel Gibson's Mad Max or, most recently, Stallone's famous boxer, “Rocky Balboa.”
With three wins this year from this independent, underfunded team, there is no doubt that Barron is punching above his weight. If you want to find him, Victory Circle is a good place to start looking, but you still won't see his name above the door.
“Someday when I'm rich and famous, I'll put ‘Eric Barron' up there, but until then I'll stick with the characters,” he says. “I come up with things that keep people talking and I like to play around. We put names on the engines form Toyota, and when we send them back, they all have the names from on top of my door.”
Barron contested the 2010 LOORRS season without a lot of success, beyond getting within sniffing distance of the podium on a couple of occasions. He took 2011 off, and returned in 2012 with a truck that he and his team built from the ground up. Some drivetrain problems left him sitting on the sidelines at most of the early season races. But at Miller Motorsports Park in Round 8, Barron found his stride. He started up front and stayed there, despite the best efforts of the Pro 4 competitors.
He had some good fortune in that race – Kyle LeDuc, winner of the first six races, had some mechanical problems of his own and had to settle for second. But at the next event, at Glen Helen Raceway, it was all racing. LeDuc tried to pass Barron, but contact left him sidelined and Barron cruised to the second of three wins in a row.
“We came into Turn 1 and he was trying to pass me,” says Barron of the incident. “I don't think he hit me on purpose, but he hit me pretty good. I just kept my foot in it and we went into Turn 3 rubbing doors. I think that was probably a little aggressive on both our parts. But that's going to happen. Though the less heavy contact, the better off the sport is going to be.”
Barron comes from a San Diego family rooted both in off-road and the racing world. Karts and three-wheelers were part of his childhood. His brother, Alex, went toward the road racing world, scoring the Toyota Atlantic Championship in 1997 before joining Dan Gurney's All American Racers in Champ Car the following year. He moved to the Indy Racing League in 2001 where he scored a couple of victories and the 2002 Indy 500 co-Rookie of the Year. But Eric's path lay in a different direction.
“I've been dreaming of this stuff,” he says. “I've been a dirt guy my whole life. Mickey Thompson intrigued me so much. But I was a little young to race that stuff and it's also so expensive. We got into this because it's such a heart throbbing deal, and adrenaline rush like you wouldn't believe.”
He made his business building off-road cars as owner of BFD Off Road before he sold it after 12 years. Now he's racing in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series and making people pay attention.
“I have a handful of things going my way. Right now we don't have a title sponsor, or a secondary sponsor, but we have a lot of people – LAT Oil, Rancho, California Metal Supply, Fox Shocks, Toyota – that help me out. I can't go without thanking the people that help me. Part of it is money, part of it is the products that you use. Both of them put together and hooked up is how you have a pretty good team,” he explains.
“I'm looking pretty good for next year,” he continues. “I think we'll be up to snuff on finances and be able to run all year long at the right level. These things just eat parts. You don't take them out and look at them, you take them out and throw them away. Like any form of top-notch racing, it takes money and talent, everything together.”
He even drops a hint that it would be unbelievable to see Alex racing LOORRS in a Pro 2. But he assures that there's nothing solid. Whether his brother joins him or not, Eric Barron looks like a force to be reckoned with for 2013.