Driver on road to recovery

More than four decades separate Steve Barnett’s first race from his most recent.

Never had the Franklin driver experienced anything like he did Saturday night at Brownstown Speedway.

One of 18 drivers entered in the Battle of the Bluegrass Late Model Series, Barnett never got the opportunity to make a single lap around the quarter-mile dirt oval.

He was involved in a crash that required Barnett, 59, be sent by LifeLine helicopter to St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis with a fractured back. He could be released as soon as today.

“It was actually on the first lap of the race where I started on the outside of Row 2. The guy in front of me went sideways, and I tried to miss him,” Barnett said. “My right side frame got stuck into the race track.

“The car behind me hit me and got me up into the air. Then I flipped over the car in front of me and barrel-rolled about four times.”

Barnett’s helmet was smashed.

Aside from his injured back, Barnett arrived at St. Vincent nursing two black eyes, a broken collarbone and a broken nose.

He has been told he could return to racing as early as three months from now.

Three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart spent a good portion of Monday visiting his friend at the hospital. Stewart, who suffered a back injury while riding in a dune buggy in January, advised Barnett on how to approach his recovery.

Barnett said he will race again.

And, yes, he plans to race at Brownstown Speedway again.

A 1975 graduate of Franklin Community High School, Barnett entered a mechanics race at Whitewater Speedway in Liberty, Indiana (15 miles south of Richmond), that same year.

He’s gone on to be a five-time Northern All-Stars Late Model Series champion.

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Mike Beas is a sports writer for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at