Staying on track

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Student Kelly Barnes, left, helps her stock car-racing boyfriend Bryce Roberts. Photo by Tasha Cook
Student Kelly Barnes, left, helps her stock car-racing boyfriend Bryce Roberts. Photo by Tasha Cook

Student Kelly Barnes hopes to help push her boyfriend, a local athlete, from regional to national racing by supporting him in his roles as a student and lifelong racer.

When Barnes first met Bryce Roberts, she quickly learned he had a growing passion for the racing pastime.

“He’s been [racing] for five years,” Barnes said. “I just caught the last year and a half.”

Roberts, a stock car racer from Spring Hill, started racing soon after getting his first car from his parents. Starting out on smaller tracks, Roberts recalled how difficult it was to race go-karts with his dad.

“It was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be,” Roberts said. “That challenge makes you want to step up.”

Roberts’ parents later purchased one of his previous cars for transportation, but he had future plans for it.

“As I grew older, it became more a part of my life,” Roberts said. “I took it off the streets and put it on the track.”

Barnes makes sure he never drives without repairs.

“I would wash his tires, help change air pressure and set up the scales,” she said. “Now that he moved up to bigger cars I really don’t do anything except scrape mud.”

With repairs made, there’s still a lot for Roberts to keep track of while racing. A radio helps maintain contact between race officials and the racers, and cars are divided into Hobby Stock, Pure Stock, A-Mod and B-Mod classes.

Depending on the class amount, about 40 cars race around dirt tracks as fast as possible each race. Even with other obstacles like mud, other racers and weather, nothing comes close to racing for Roberts.

“It’s just you and the car versus everybody else out there,” Roberts said. “It’s a feeling I haven’t been able to replicate anywhere else.”

Heartland Park of Topeka hosts many of the stock car races Roberts enters. Motorcycle and drag racing are also available.

Roberts recalls his first car for races.

“It was just a regular car,” he said. “As soon as I got it, that rebel boyhood thing, tearing around [the track] started then.”

A minimum stockcar weight of 3,300 and some specific parts are required to race. There is a chance to win prizes like car parts or sponsorship winnings.

Eager racers may sense a lot of opportunity from upcoming events, but Roberts has advice for those new to stock car racing.

“Do your homework,” Roberts said. “Go to the races and meet people.”

No matter where Roberts places on each track, he’ll have one supporter until the finish line.

“He would like to go big, to NASCAR,” Barnes said. “As long as he’s happy, he should go for it.”

Roberts intends to enroll at the college in spring and join Barnes in pursuing educational goals while balancing his racing career.

Contact Adam Lignell, staff reporter, at alignell@jccc.edu.

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