DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour car owner Chris Our officially announced Wednesday that Tommy Barrett Jr. will take over behind the wheel of his No. 22 modified for the upcoming 2014 season.
With the addition of Barrett to the Our Racing program, seven-time Whelen Modified Tour titlist Mike Stefanik has decided to move on from the team after two seasons.
The 2014 season will be the first full-time Whelen Modified Tour campaign for Barrett, an 18-year-old from Millis, Mass. Barrett, who is the first driver to declare intentions to compete for 2014 Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors, made his first initial tour appearances in the last two events of the 2012 season when he finished 19th in the Fall Final at Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway and seventh in the World Series at Thompson (Conn.) Speedway.
“I’m excited to start the season off with Tommy Barrett, I think he’s a talented young man that’s gonna go places,” Our said. “I figured he’s going to be a rising star.”
Barrett recorded 14 career victories in NASCAR Whelen All-American Series SK Light Modified division action at Stafford from 2010-11. He also has six wins in 35 starts since 2011 with the Valenti Modified Racing Series. The No. 22 crew chief for the past two seasons, Brad Lafontaine, will remain with the team and work with Barrett moving forward.
“I’m really excited to have Chris [Our] as a car owner and Brad Lafontaine as the crew chief,” Barrett said. “That takes the pressure off of me a little bit, especially with Mike Stefanik – a seven-time champion – being in the seat the last few years.
“Hopefully I can fill the shoes he left. It definitely won’t be easy, but I’m going to try my best.”
Our Racing has quickly expanded since he first joined the Whelen Modified Tour in 2012 when it fielded a car for half of the schedule for Stefanik. Our then went full-time this past season with Stefanik, who registered two wins and finished fifth in the championship standings.
Our was looking to expand his operation in 2014 with a second, part-time car for Stefanik. It was an offer that Stefanik ultimately passed on.
“I offered Mike five races [for next season] in a second car, and he has opted to turn that down at this time,” Our said. “No hard feelings in any which way, but I am moving forward with Tommy as my main driver starting off the tour and running one car at the moment.
“We are very much looking forward to starting the season off with Tommy Barrett, who we’re planning to bring to Daytona [for the UNOH Battle At The Beach]. We’ll go down there and see how we make out, then start off the tour with Tommy.”
Stefanik ultimately decided to pass on Our’s offer of a part-time role with the team in 2014.
“Chris offered the five-race schedule,” Stefanik said. “I thought about it, but I think it’s really hard to do a two car programs out of one hauler. I just felt that it probably wasn’t the right thing, so I chose not to.
“Chris is heading down a different road, and that’s all good, so no problems.”
Stefanik, who will turn 56 next May, opened the door to possible retirement following his triumph at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway this past August. Owner of nearly every one of the tour’s career statistical records, Stefanik has compiled 74 victories, 48 poles and 300 top-10 finishes in 449 starts since 1985.
But as of Wednesday when he informed Our that he would not return to the team, Stefanik wasn’t ready to officially call it quits, even though at this point he’s not sure what his racing future in racing holds.
“I’m not worried about it to be completely honest,” Stefanik said. “If it all ends now then I’m fine with it. I don’t really have any regrets. If there’s no more chapters then there’s no more chapters.
“I’m not freaked out. I’m alright with everything. However it goes, I’m ok with it.”