THOMPSON – Art Barry, a cornerstone of the Northeastearn Modified racing community for the last seven decades, passed away Tuesday.
Barry, of Preston, was 86 years old.
Barry, who began his career in short track racing in 1952 at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl, developed a reputation as one of the top chassis designers in Modified racing under his SPAFCO Racing and Spearpoint Auto brands. He was also regarded as one of the most successful team owners in the history of Modified racing.
The list of drivers who competed for and had success driving for Barry reads like a Modified Hall of Fame.
Ed Flemke Sr., Leo Cleary, George Summers, Bob Potter, Bobby Santos Sr., Mike McLaughlin, Mike Stefanik, Jeff Fuller, Rick Fuller, Mike Ewanitsko, Reggie Ruggiero, Brett Bodine, Greg Sacks, Justin Bonsignore and Jon McKennedy are just some of the names Barry fielded cars for during his illustrious career as a team owner.
“My dad used to race and I kind of followed his footsteps,” Barry told RaceDayCT in 2021. “I enjoyed racing and it was just a lot of fun. My father started racing in Waterford when the track first opened up. He quit early though because my mother would not let him drive. I bought my father’s first car and that was where it all started.”
Barry was inducted into the NEAR New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2009.
“The people that I have met and dealt with in racing, you cannot replace them,” Barry told RaceDayCT in 2021. “They are like a big family and when you need them they are always there to help.”
Barry won two NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championships with Stefanik as his driver in 2001 and 2002. He also won Modified Racing Series championships with McKennedy in 2012 and Bonsignore in 2014.
Over his career Barry’s familiar No. 21 Modified scored victories in some of the sport’s biggest events, including the Stafford Speedway Spring Sizzler and the Thompson Speedway 300. He also had wins at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.
Barry also fielded Modifieds for his son Ken Barry, who was the 2004 Whelen Modified Tour Rookie of the Year.
Art Barry retired from full-time competition as a team owner following the 2016 racing season, but continued to focus his efforts on helping his grandson Tyler Barry make his way in the sport.
Tyler Barry, now 16, is in his second year running full-time in the SK Light Modified division at Stafford Speedway. Tyler Barry won one SK Light Modified event at Stafford in 2021 and captured the division’s Rookie of the Year honors. Art Barry was on the infield at Stafford on May 13 to watch his grandson finish second in the 20-lap SK Light Modified feature at Stafford. Tyler Barry currently leads the SK Light Modified standings at Stafford after 14 events this year.
Tyler Barry was racing with the Sunoco Modified division Tuesday night at Thompson Speedway. Tyler’s father Ken Barry, son of Art Barry, was overseeing his son’s efforts. Ken Barry now operates the family racing business.
“He taught me everything I know,” Ken Barry said.
A car owner’s car owner. I’m an old guy and remember when. This guy counts, and will always be a legend in my book, hands down. Mr Art Barry, thank you for all of the unbelievable memories with the drivers you employed, that made you the owner/ team to beat. Truly, one of the best. RIP. Thank you. My condolences to the Barry family.
My condolences to the Barry Family- Watched the Famous 21 Art Berry Modified for many years – RIP Art
Art was a true legend as an owner and fabricator in modified racing. He was a gentleman, a mentor and great family man. Thank you for all the memories and my heartfelt condolences go out to the entire Barry family. God bless you and RIP my friend.
I was with Art when his grandson won his first Bandero raid. He was so proud snd crying we all joined him in his happiness ?.
God gained a great man today .
Going to miss you my friend.
God Bless the Berry Families.
Condolences to Ken and family a true racing legend.. Nice to see that he was able to enjoy his grandson.. rip..
My condolences to the Barry family. Art was a true legend in modified racing.
One of the BEST !… Condolences…..R.I.P Art ???
Had the opportunity to talk to him in the pits at Thompson during Tyler’s Open Mod debut. He was so proud of his grandson! Condolences and prayers to the family.
A legacy to envy. Long life…..well lived by all accounts. Missed by loved ones, admired by countless others. Now that’s the way to live a life by gum.
Ken, Tiffany & Entire Barry Family,
Our Race Team ran a SPAFCO Chassis from 2005 – 2016. From a SK modified then the MRS Racing series. Mr. Barry was not running that series at the time so we ran the number 21—@that time he was in an other series running the #2 When Mr. Barry came back into that series, we made sure if He wanted that number back— it was his, and we ran the #11. Mr Barry was one of the most knowledgeable and personal people we had the pleasure to know, and deal with. Our blessings & Sympathy to ALL. RIP Mr. Art Barry?
* GERNHARD RACING *
Modified racing is what it is today because of the few people like Art Barry.
Condolences to the family.
A TRUE GIANT in OUR SPORT …. I used to stare in AWE of HIS craftsmanship and welding ……. If you ever built a Chassis from scratch you just looked and looked and couldn’t believe what He was doing in the DESIGN and the Modernization of the Modern day Modified…The MAN was way ahead of his time . He knew what to take along from the old and what to leave behind ….. You could eat off HIS FLAWLESS CARS….. Works of ART really … WORKS OF ART …. RIP … God is using you to up there to DESIGN a few new Chariots of Fire …. GOD BLESS..
Two words come to mind when I think of Art Barry. Gentleman and professional. In the 40 years I have known Art he was both at all times. RIP old friend. Condolences to Kenny, Tyler, and all of his family and many friends.
So sorry to hear. Always had beautiful well prepared equipment. And what a list drivers! Condolences to all of his family and friends.
I grew up down the road from Art and Debby. I don’t know if it is a blessing or a curse but he instilled my lifelong interest in cars. He let myself and my friends watch him do the great work he did on his cars. I always looked up to him. I do not know a single person who knew Art that didn’t think he was top notch human being. He was a humble New England legend in the racing circuit. His knowledge, character and example would be hard to duplicate. My condolences to his entire family.