Last season there was a race team in the ARCA Series Presented by Menards known as Carter/Eminem Motorsports. Eminem you ask? Oh, yes, there are familiar names associated with it: a team co-owned by ARCA veteran Roger Carter and hip-hop icon Eminem (Marshal Mathers).
If the name ‘Carter/Eminem Mortorsports’ rings a bell it’s due to the 2011 season when Eminem joined forces with ARCA Veteran driver and team owner, Roger Carter to bring more awareness to the Stop CAID Now Foundation. They used the ARCA race at Iowa Speedway in an effort to bring awareness and generate funding for both the research and education needed in hopes to finding a cure for a group of related illnesses termed Childhood Auto Inflammatory Disease (CAID). Unfortunately, children suffering from CAID experience acute pain and intense inflammation throughout the body and can possibly sustain permanent organ and tissue damage. At present, there is no known cure for any disease that falls under the CAID classification. Hopefully the well known icons will team up again sometime in the 2012 season.
But for now, it’s Roger Carter Racing teaming up with Brad Smith Racing in the 2012
season. Roger Carter Racing will be fielding four ARCA entries for the first race of the season at Daytona International Speedway. One of the drivers is Larry Barford, Jr., 36, born on April 13, 1975 and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. Barford, Jr. has always wanted what almost every little boy dreams of becoming – a race car driver.
Coming from a family of drivers, Barford, Jr. grew up hanging around his Uncle Jim and Uncle Bobby in the garage and at the race tracks, including Charlotte Motor Speedway. His Uncle Bobby (Bobby Ballantine) was a Grand National Series driver in the early 80′s. Since Larry had a problem pronouncing “Uncle,” at a young age, he settled on calling his Uncle Jim, “Kunkle”. Once he grew older, he started calling him “Kunk,” and then eventually “MIJ” (Jim spelled backwards.) What Larry didn’t realize at the young age while hanging with his Uncles, was that he was actually tuning in and learning what it took to become a race car driver and builder.
In 1981, while driving his No. 1 Pontiac during the Sportsmen Series at Daytona, Uncle Bob rolled the car, sustaining injuries that ended his racing career. “Kunk” was Uncle Bobby’s crew chief and Larry always looked up to him. “I remember when I was 8 or 9 years-old, we use to ‘supe’ up our golf carts by re-wiring the motor to make them run faster and “Kunk” would show me how to “slide it” around the turns while we were racing on them,” said Barford, Jr. “I actually learned how to drive a full size car by the age of seven”. This would lead in to racing non sanctioned go-cart racing and Dirt bikes. Barford Jr. said “If it has wheels I will find a way to make it faster and race it”
Unfortunately, “Kunk” passed away in 1987 at the young age of 30 due to an allergic reaction to an anesthetic he received during surgery on his hip. This surgery would allow Kunk to follow his dream of racing in NASCAR. Currently, Barford, Jr. has the bumper of his first race car which will always be a reminder of his beloved Kunk:
Living Your Dream
Barford, Jr. married a young lady named Alicia – who just happened to be just a “friend” – and no, they were not dating during their high school years – soon after graduating and shortly thereafter, started a family. During this time, Larry was racing and helping as a car chief in the NASCAR Whelen All American Series. In 1997, realizing that he needed stability and benefits for his growing family, Larry started training for the Police Academy. He joined up in 1999.
However, after about ten years on the force, while chasing a criminal, Barford, Jr. sustained injuries to his right knee and ended up having three surgeries. Unfortunately, his surgeon informed him his days of chasing of criminals were over. That’s when Barford, Jr. turned to his grass roots of racing and thus, in honor of his favorite Uncle, Kunkle Motorsports were born. Barford Jr.’s first race car was named MIJ – Jim – spelled backwards in honor of “Kunk.” Barford Jr. developed his signature trademark of checkered flags and angel wings, in remembrance of Kunk and to signify always follow your dreams no matter what.
In 2009, Larry decided to test with Derrike Cope for his NASCAR truck license and was slated to drive in the truck series but funding never came through. Barford Jr. then bought some cars to run ARCA and the East Series but never had the chance… his wife suddenly became ill so he wasn’t sure what was going to happen, so he ended up selling everything.
Today, Larry and Alicia are proud parents of two boys, Tyler (15), and Jacob (11). Barford, Jr. living in Denton, Maryland and are definitely the outdoors type. Barford Jr. enjoys Archery and goes hunting for deer, bear, birds, as well as taking his boats out to go fishing, crabbing, or just for a relaxing cruise on the Chesapeake Bay. Normally when they hunt the birds (snow, Canada geese), whatever they get, they donate to veterans and charities for hot meals. The Barford’s also have five other family members – their four labs: Nellie (Chocolate Lab), Noel (Chocolate Lab), Chassy (Yellow Lab and yes, named after car chassis) and Avery (Black Lab). Avery and Chassy are the trained bird dogs. Then there’s Alicia’s Papillon, “Justice.” She runs the roost.
Thanks to his current agent Ryan Johnston of Champion Motorsports Marketing, Roger Carter agreed to take a look at Larry’s driving abilities. His time to shine was during the ARCA testing sessions that were held at Daytona International Speedway in December. And he did. Barford, Jr. was behind the wheel of the No. 04 Dodge for Roger Carter Racing during the ARCA testing at Daytona International Speedway for the very first time. He turned one of the fastest speeds for the team and was very comfortable out on the track. “Kunk” always told me that I should become one
with the car,” said Barford, Jr., “I am very comfortable behind the wheel. Seems as though things slow down, almost like in slow motion when I’m out on the track. I can actually see the the cracks in the paint of the yellow stripe as I’m coming out of the turn,” explains Barford, Jr. “I can even see the seats in the grandstands, while going down the superstretch.” He mentioned that he looks up to the man that really helped and guided him when he was starting out, and that is none other than NASCAR Daytona Champion, Derrike Cope. “Derrike would always tell me to “feel what the car wants to do, and then try to run a fast line.. this will tell you what is upsetting the car and it is how you know what will make the car faster.. and always look as far ahead as you can” said Barford, Jr. “I will
always be forever thankful to Derrike for all his guidance.” Barford Jr. is also close friends with NASCAR Veteran Donnie Neuenberger. He was present at the test with him. “Donnie is a great person who will do anything for anyone. He didn’t hesitate to come along to Daytona for support and advice, and has helped me so much this year especially when it was time to draft,” said Larry. “Donnie is a great friend to me and its so cool to be racing with him.”
It will be his time to shine once again on Feb. 18th. Larry Barford Jr. locked in the ride and will be in the drivers seat of the No. 26 1st Mariner Bank/Trauma Doc Dodge making his debut at Daytona International Speedway during the ARCA Series Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200. There will be another special tribute to his beloved “Kunk”, over the passenger door will read “James “Kunk” Keatts IV. Larry said, “I tear up every time I think of Kunk and how much he loved the sport and how he gave his life to follow his dream for the chance to drive a racecar, and that I am actually following our dream of racing. I know he is with me always and this will symbolize that he is riding along,” Barford Jr., said. Barford Jr., will be racing at Mobile, AL and hopes to race Talladega Superspeedway and along with others to include his “home” track at Dover International Speedway sometime in the near future in the Truck or Nationwide Series. All depends on how well he does at Daytona and if any sponsors come around.
Barford, Jr. is also the RAD Racing (Racing Against Drugs) spokesperson and will be making an appearance at the *CADCA’s Seminar on February 7th at the Gaylord National Hotel & Convention Center in National Harbor, MD between 6 pm – 8 pm. Barford Jr. has been honored as a Certified Police Driving Instructor and an Honorary Volunteer Fire FIghter for his fundraising efforts.