Behind the Scenes: Tony Barclay Builds Winners at JRM

Ron Lemasters | 10/10/2018

Behind the Scenes News

The name Tony Barclay may be unfamiliar to some JRM fans, but his work is a crucial part of what makes our four-car fleet contend for victories each and every week.

MOORESVILLE, N.C. (Oct. 10, 2018) – Tony Barclay has been in and around stock car racing nearly all his life. For the past seven years, he’s been at JR Motorsports, and his job is one of the most important anywhere in the 66,000-square-foot campus that houses the four-car NASCAR Xfinity Series team.

Along with Billy Taylor and Danny Earnhardt Sr., Barclay works in the suspension room on the back side of the shop floor. He builds and maintains the underpinnings of JRM’s fleet of NASCAR stock cars, from brake rotors to truck arms to axles and all the attendant suspension components that go into the four-car team’s primary and backup Chevrolet Camaros.

“I do all the front suspensions, steering boxes, master cylinders, brake calipers, all that stuff,” Barclay said. “A typical day for me is to come in here and build suspension parts, tear them apart, service them, Magnaflux (check for cracks) them, rebuild calipers...”

The suspension room is the ultimate quality-control station inside JRM. When parts go on the cars, they are as close to 100 percent as they can be. Barclay says that the job description is very simple. “Making sure nothing breaks,” he said. “Zero failures is what your goal is, but it is very hard to do.”

It’s a big job, but one that Barclay is used to doing as a 35-year veteran of the business. In fact, between Barclay’s 35-plus years in the business, Taylor’s 50-plus years and Earnhardt Sr.’s long tenure, the suspension room boasts more than 100 years of experience.

Barclay's journey got started in his native Michigan.

Born in Muskegon, Barclay began hanging around the race track at a very early age.

“My mother’s aunt owned a dirt track in Michigan, Thunderbird Raceway, and since the age of 5 or 6, I grew up hanging around the track,” he said. “It was free, and when you’re a kid and don’t have a lot of money, you like some entertainment that’s free. I hung around there all the time, and I grew up with (former NASCAR driver) Mike Garvey. He was a couple of years older than me, and I started out helping him and his family.”

Helping out meant putting tires on the car, a job the youngster found a creative way to accomplish.

“As a kid, I couldn’t even pick the tires up to put them on the car,” he said with a laugh. “I had to use a jack to do that.”

That changed one day when Barclay met Harley Boeve, the founder and owner of Port City Racecars, one of the top chassis builders in the country for pavement racing.

“I met Harley one day and he asked me if I’d like to come to work,” Barclay said. “I said, ‘Harley, I’m only 15...I don’t have a way to get there.’ He said, ‘what if I have somebody come and pick you up after school?’ I said sure, I’d love to. I worked all summers, all days off, anything. That’s how I got started, cutting parts at Port City.”

It was just the beginning for Barclay. The odyssey he embarked upon at that point led him all around the country, building race cars and doing pretty much every job associated with the sport. There isn’t a job in the mechanical side of the sport that he hasn’t done at one point or another.

“I’ve built chassis, built the jigs that I used to build the chassis,” he said with a laugh. “I’ve done it all.”

From Port City, he went to Louisville, Ky. with longtime friend and driver Mike Garvey to race in the All Pro Series for car owner John Arnold, building cars during the week and racing on the weekends. In short order, he and Garvey had success, falling short of the title in their first season by two points to Stanley Smith and winning it outright the following season.

That much work—pretty much seven days a week—started to take its toll, Barclay said.

“You have a hard time racing and building race cars,” Barclay noted. “If you don’t want to work all night long, you have to figure that out.” Arnold owned A-1 Engineering, and Barclay was burning the candle hard at both ends. Herb Murray, who ran Murray Motorsports in Atlanta, Ga., came calling for both Garvey and Barclay, and the two moved farther south to run the All Pro scene. Garvey was tabbed for NASCAR Xfinity Series ride for a team out of Florida and moved there, but Barclay stayed in Georgia, where he met Billy Jones.

Jones, the father of NASCAR driver Buckshot Jones, asked Murray to help his son get started as a driver, which Barclay did. When Garvey left to go to Florida, his ride went to Mike Cope, but that partnership didn’t last. Billy Jones asked Murray if he could rent the car, and upon being denied, asked Barclay to come work for him.

“I said I can’t really do that, because I do this for a living and Buckshot kind of did it for entertainment, being just out of college,” Barclay said. “Here I was, 21 years old and living on my own in Georgia, and I didn’t know if that was a good career move at the time. He (Billy Jones) said, ‘I want you to come work for me.’ I said I couldn’t really do that, so he went across the street and bought everything out, the building, the shop, the hauler, the whole thing. He came back and said, ‘well, you work for me now.’

Getting the younger Jones up to speed in the All Pro ranks didn’t take long, and the elder Jones had the idea to go Busch Grand National Series racing. That left Barclay between a rock and a hard place.

“I had never seen a Busch car except on television at the time,” Barclay remembered. “So we went Busch racing. We hired Freddie Fryar as a crew chief, and Freddie, after being there for about three weeks, got an offer to go do a Truck deal with Roush, and he took it. So here we sat, without a crew chief. We got ready and went to Milwaukee, and in the process, Buckshot’s dad asked me if I knew who Ricky Pearson was. I said sure, and he says, ‘hop in my car...let’s go for a ride.’

“So we do that, and we went from Atlanta to Spartanburg, S.C. to talk to Ricky. We left there and I said, ‘Hire him. We need him and you’ll be so much farther along if you hire an experienced person here.’ He (Jones) came in the next day and said, ‘hey, Monday morning I’m going to have a U-Haul truck sitting in front of your apartment; we’re moving to Spartanburg.’ I thought he (Pearson) was coming here. So I moved to Spartanburg.”

From there, the inevitable progression to the Cup Series was not long in coming, and Barclay was the crew chief when it happened. Like a lot of start-up ventures, it didn’t last, and Barclay was on the move again, this time to Mooresville, N.C., with Lyndon Amick. When that effort ended, Barclay decided it was time to find a more permanent position.

That led him to Hendrick Motorsports. After talking with Robbie Loomis, Barclay became the second person hired for a new team the organization was starting: the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet. After more than four years with the No. 48 team (and a couple of NASCAR Cup Series titles), Barclay left to go to Dale Earnhardt Inc. for Dale Earnhardt Jr., where he stayed until Dale Jr. left to go to...Hendrick Motorsports. Barclay went with him.

When Dale Jr.’s team switched shops to partner with the No. 48 team, the opportunity arose for Barclay to join JR Motorsports, and he took it. After a lifetime on the road, it was time to find a home and stay in it, and that’s what he’s done.

“I was traveling when my wife got pregnant with our first child,” Barclay said. “I’ve traveled a lot, and we had kids when we were a little older. My oldest son just turned 16 and I have twins that just turned 14, all three are just 16 months apart.”

Working at JR Motorsports means you’re part of a larger family, too, and that appeals to Barclay. “It’s a great group of people, a family organization,” he said. “It’s a lot like Hendrick Motorsports, very family oriented. Everyone has the same goal: run as well as we can, win races and win championships.”

With Barclay and his mates in the suspension room, winning races and championships has become a regular thing. Both of the NXS titles the team has won, in 2014 and again last year, came with Barclay crafting the suspension and other items necessary to race for championships.

The quintessential racing vagabond, whose journey started in Michigan and wound its way through the South to Mooresville, found the place he was meant to be.

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XFINITY Series Schedule

  • November 3 04:30 PM ET
    O’Reilly Auto Parts 300*Texas Motor Speedway
  • November 10 03:30 PM ET
    Whelen Trusted to Perform 200*ISM Raceway
  • November 17 03:30 PM ET
    Ford EcoBoost 300*Homestead-Miami Speedway

XFINITY Series Standings

After Kansas Lottery 300*

Kansas Speedway | 10/20/2018
RankDriverPointsBehind
1Daniel Hemric (P)30670
2Elliott Sadler (P)3058-9
3Tyler Reddick # (P)3055-12
4Christopher Bell # (P)3045-22
5Matt Tifft (P)3044-23
6Justin Allgaier (P)3040-27
7Cole Custer (P)3022-45
13Michael Annett562-2505