Meet Bootie Barker: The Veteran Crew Chief Behind Bubba Wallace’s Maiden Playoff Run

Published 02/07/2024, 7:52 AM EST

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2023 was the year of highs for Bubba Wallace. Not only did the #23 Toyota driver make his debut in the playoffs, he followed it up with a qualification to the Round of 12. Having struggled to find his footing since the team’s inception in 2021, Bootie Barker’s addition as the crew chief was a breath of fresh air for Bubba.

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Bootie Barker’s journey to the top flight of NASCAR is a story of persistence and determination. Having navigated his way through different circuits and guided drivers like Michael Waltrip, Max Papis, and Casey Mears, Barker is one of the most experienced crew chiefs in the Cup Series. The 52-year-old also guided Bubba Wallace to his first victory in the competition at Talladega in 2021.

Bootie Barker’s inspiring interest in racing

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Born on March 2, 1971, Barker wasn’t a big fan of racing. Despite growing up beside the South Boston Speedway, he preferred sports involving a ball more than racing cars. Barker played as a linebacker in his younger days. However, following an unfortunate car accident, Bootie Barker was diagnosed with paralysis and was unable to move from the waist down voluntarily.

After graduating from Old Dominion University, an energetic Barker was drawn toward racing and motorsports through his mechanical engineering degree. As the story goes, Bootie Barker once overheard then-NASCAR star Benny Parsons speaking about the need for engineers in racing. That conversation sparked a fire for motorsports in him.

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Bootie Barker entered racing as a tire seller in South Boston. Shortly, he began working with Ashton Driver’s late model team and continued to build his reputation. In 2001, his hard work paid off after a move to Bill Davis Racing in the Xfinity Series, and his evolution in NASCAR kicked off.

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Barker’s early NASCAR career

In 2006, Bootie Barker led the #66 Haas CNC Racing Chevrolet with Jeff Green. That is when his popularity among the NASCAR fans grew. Being a regular appearance on NASCAR RaceDay, his opinions were well respected by the NASCAR community. In the following year, Barker moved to the No.70 Chevrolet of Johnny Sauter and recorded two top-10s, along with a P5 finish in Richmond.

Michael Waltrip decided to avail Bootie Barker’s services in 2008 when he announced that Barker would lead his #55 Toyota from the pits for the 2009 Sprint Cup Series season. After a brief tenure with MWR, Bootie Barker returned to Cup racing with Germain Racing in 2010, where he managed  Max Papis and, later, Ty Dillon’s car until 2018.

In 2018, Barker received his first big breakthrough with a NASCAR powerhouse. Joe Gibbs Racing recruited Bootie Barker as the crew chief and an instrumental figure in the team’s ARCA Series Program. Barker has had a massive role in developing Riley Herbst as a driver.

Bootie Barker’s eventful stay at 23XI Racing

With eight races to go until the end of the 2021 season, 23XI Racing shocked the world after announcing Bootie Barker as the No.23 crew chief. Bubba Wallace’s former crew chief, Mike Wheeler, upgraded roles to become the Director of Competition in the team. Starting the partnership at Bristol in September, the positives were highlighted since the start of the alliance.

In October 2021, Bubba Wallace and Bootie Barker won their first Cup Series race at Talladega. After a stunning end to 2021, Barker started 2022 on a poor note. Following a tire and wheel loss incident for the #23 Toyota at COTA, Barker was handed a four-race suspension. Later that year, ar

Barker is NASCAR: Full Speed’s showstopper

In the recent NASCAR and Netflix collaboration, Bootie Barker was one of the characters who stood out due to his character. Bootie’s straightforward style and stern personality have impressed the fans. One of his dialogues in the series has also become a popular meme in the NASCAR community. It begins with Barker’s disappointment after Bubba Wallace’s P3 finish at Texas.

When asked about his expectations from the race and how Bubba Wallace delivered on them, Barker grumpily said, “I guess I lied to yo’ a**.

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Bootie Barker’s strengths as a crew chief and a person have added value to 23XI Racing. With 2023 bringing the spotlight back on Bubba Wallace’s potential as a driver, Barker could be the key for Bubba to realize it.

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Written by:

Ansuman Abhisek

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Ansuman Abhisek is a NASCAR Writer at EssentiallySports. Even before he made his way into the world of motorsports, he had already made a name for himself in the sports journalism field by working as a writer for a few media houses. Now, having covered multiple Cup races live, he has often been the first to report on-track incidents and also provide his readers with an in-depth analysis of the same.
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Edited by:

Ariva Debnath

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