GNCC Racing

Tuesday Toolbox: Barry Hawk

Tuesday Toolbox: Barry Hawk

Wednesday, December 2, 2015 | 10:40 AM
Wednesday, December 2, 2015 | 10:40 AM

Last week, Coastal Racing announced the formation of a new bike team to go along with the ATV team. GNCC Racing Legend Barry Hawk was named Team Manager. goes behind the scenes with Barry to find the details on how this all came together, and to get the personal side of the story! First of all, I think the whole GNCC Racing Nation wants to say “Congratulations!” to your son, Talon! We saw on social media that he just got his first deer.
Barry Hawk: Yeah! Thanks. He’s 10 years old and his first buck is bigger than anything I’ve shot up until a couple weeks ago! The whole thing was really cool. We had to hunt, track and stalk. He was excited but made the comment, “Dad, I think you’re more nervous than I am!” I think he was right! It was a pretty neat experience.

Congrats again, Talon! Now we have to talk about you, Barry! 8 time GNCC Champion; 7 times on an ATV, one time on a bike. That’s phenomenal! What started it all? How did you get into riding and racing?
I guess it goes back to my dad. He was always tinkering and piecing things together. There was always a dirt bike around. I’m sure this wasn’t safe and we wouldn’t do it today, but one of my earliest memories is being on a bike and holding onto the crossbar! I grew up on bikes, though racing wasn’t on the agenda. We just did it for fun.

Barry's son Talon got his first buck this past weekend!
Barry's son Talon got his first buck this past weekend! Photo: @bhawk8x

So what was your first bike of your own?
It was a mini-bike! Just something to ride and have fun. Then we got a bigger one and a bigger one. Just before I turned 16, dad got me on an ATV. I did a couple local races. Then there was a GNCC not too far from home so we went to it. I entered the 4-Stroke B class and did okay. I got 5th that first GNCC. I came back again and then on my 3rd GNCC, I won my class! After that I was hooked! “Gotta do ‘em all, now!”

It’s been quite the ride, hasn’t it?
Oh yes! There have been so many opportunities and experiences. I’ve met great people. My dad was my mechanic until I went pro on the ATV and then Tony Kellner wrenched for me and we won 7 championships. It definitely hasn’t been just me. There’s been a lot of people on the journey with me!

So how did racing dirt bikes come about?
Back in those early days, the bike was just to cross-train. I was the number three quad guy to Bob Sloan and Steve Holbert. Those guys were racing ATVs on Saturday and then racing the 3-hour on Sunday. I figured since they were beating me and that was their training program, then it needed to be mine, too! So I started racing dirt bikes and got pretty good at it. It wasn’t my original intent to go pro on two wheels; it just kind of happened that way. I was somewhat successful. One GNCC Championship and three or four 2nd place seasons. Those are the tough ones! There’s always the “Could-a, should-a, would-a!” But all-in-all, pretty happy with how it all turned out.

Barry began his racing career on the ATV side, amassing 7 GNCC ATV National Championships.
Barry began his racing career on the ATV side, amassing 7 GNCC ATV National Championships. Photo: GNCC Archives

This might be your most often asked question: Which is harder: Racing ATVs for 2 hours or racing bikes for 3?
[Laughs] They’re both pretty difficult, and I think they are both physically demanding. On an ATV, there are 4 wheels bouncing around and that will wear you out. Back when Big Dave was still around, we had a season where we experimented with a 3-hour ATV race. I think there were 4 rounds scheduled to be longer and after 2 or 3, they dropped the idea. I remember winning North Carolina by 4 or 5 minutes. I think it got boring for the fans and definitely took a toll on the riders.

Well that’s settled! They’re both hard and take skill and determination! You retired from racing in 2010 and became the Lieutenant Trail Boss for Racer Productions. Was that a way of combining ATV and dirt bike experience?
It was. I actually still had offers to ride bikes at the end of 2010 but I knew I hadn’t laid it all on the line toward the end of the season. I felt like I had to decide whether to step it back up or just step back. Having won championships, I knew what it takes and I knew that I wasn’t there. I guess the decision was made in November 2010 that I wasn’t going to race and so I looked around. I had a lot of race track experience, I’ve always had good “wood-sense” and a good sense of direction. Plus, I had a CDL. Being a racer means you get into a lot of different things! I talked with Tim Cotter and Jeff Russell about coming on the track crew. I remember them cautioning me that the job would require more than just laying out trails. Saying that I might have to “dig a ditch” once in a while. I didn’t say it, but was thinking, “And what’s the hard part?”

So did you dig ditches?
Oh yeah, many times. It’s been a lot of fun. I enjoy hard work. I like people coming together as a team and doing whatever it takes to get the job done. It’s been a great fit for me and a lot of racers have expressed that I’m good at what I do. They like the trails and I’ve been able to apply my ATV and bike skills to laying out obstacles.

Coastal Racing announced last week that they were expanding their team and bringing you on as manager. That sounds like a good fit for a guy who knows how to win championships on 2 or 4 wheels!
I think so! I’m excited about this opportunity. I think I have a lot to offer and am looking forward to bringing my knowledge and experience to a developing team. I left Racer Productions on good terms and I’m thankful that I get to still be a part of the community I’ve been involved in for most of my life. It’s funny, I didn’t go looking for this and they didn’t come looking for me. Scott Kiger is the owner and he has been racing UTVs for a number of years. That’s actually what brought Coastal Racing to GNCC. It started as a UTV team and then Scott’s daughter and son are into racing ATVs and so they expanded. Eli Kiger was the ATV racer this year alongside Jay Shadron and Blake Tornes. Scott and I would talk at the races and our conversations started revolving around, “If you had a pro level race team, this is what it would look like.” And out of that, opportunity arose!

Barry would make the transition to the bike side, claiming the 2003 GNCC National Championship and finishing runner-up for a number of years.
Barry would make the transition to the bike side, claiming the 2003 GNCC National Championship and finishing runner-up for a number of years. Photo: Jason Hooper

According to the press release, your riders are Eli Kiger for Collegeboy ATV, Brycen Neal for ATV XC1, Layne Michael and Craig Delong for bike XC2 and ISDE Gold Medalist Ryan Sipes for bike XC1.
We have a diverse team and I’m most excited about that. I’ve been where every single one of them are. From being a fast amateur and just getting started to being a guy working through the ranks, winning races, knocking on the podium. I’ve been there! Ryan Sipes might be a little bit different. He’s a former motocrosser making the transition. But even there, I’ve raced motocross and qualified for Nationals. He was a lot better at that than I ever was, but he’s coming to the woods and looking to learn. I think I can offer him some support as he makes his way.

You think this might get you back on a bike for some testing and training?
[Laughs] It might! We don’t have any team test days scheduled as yet. Maybe by the banquet we’ll have something together. That depends on the weather. But, when we do go test, I’ll be able to jump on a bike or a quad and go hit the sections and see what the guys are talking about. I’m still fast, but not for as long!

You have a diverse set of guys on the team. Did they all know each other beforehand?
Ryan and Layne were at Six Days together, so they already had some background. The ATV guys didn’t really know the bike guys and vice-versa. However, I just set up a group text with the 5 of them and myself. They got to chattering last night and it went back and forth for about 20 or 30 messages! Some good banter. Ryan Sipes is the “Elder Statesman” of the team and the guys look up to him. He’s a professional in all aspects and it’s good to have his leadership on the team.

Where is headquarters for you now? Where is the Coastal Race Shop?
That’s just over the hill from where I live! It’s about 21 miles west of me, so my commute isn’t bad at all. And speaking of race shop, I am really happy to be working with Coastal! They have a top-notch facility. I first saw their shop several years ago before this even came up. When I saw it, I thought, “That is exactly what I would want in a race shop!” They have everything they need on-site: Plasma cutter, lathe, mill, tools, and sterile work area. It’s a legit operation!

For those who might be wondering, Barry is pretty darn fast!
For those who might be wondering, Barry is pretty darn fast! Photo: Ken Hill

That’s good to hear! The GNCC Racin’ Nation needs top level, supported teams on the series.
That’s the intention. We plan to do well. We know we are competing at the top level, but we have the equipment, the riders and the support. We will be a satellite team for the Husqvarna bike effort and feel like we have everything we need to go out there and make it happen!

What are your hopes for this first year?
I hope to be doing a Tuesday Toolbox interview in a year’s time talking about the success of the team! I really think we have an opportunity in front of us and we have the right people in the right place to make it happen. We have a lot of work before Florida, but we have the guys who are willing to put in the time. The riders are already training and riding. Layne is coming off an injury and not on a bike yet, but it won’t be long. He’s staying fit and he’s hungry. So yeah! I hope you call me in a year and say, “Wow! What a year!”

We will definitely be keeping an eye on you guys! Thank you for your time today. We covered a lot of ground! From riding on gas tanks to winning championships and starting new teams! Who would you like to thank for it all?
I could go on for days! But probably the most important person to thank would be my wife. She’s been with me through it all, she’s supported me and helped me get to where I am now. My mom and dad, also. They were there at the beginning and I couldn’t have got anywhere without them. My ATV mechanic, Tony Kellner. my bike mechanic, Doug Whitmer. Randy Hawkins for giving me the opportunity to race bikes on his team many years ago. He’s the mold for going from racer to team manager! Racer Productions has been good to me for many years. From racing to working for them and with them, just a great group of people. And of course, Scott Kiger for giving me the opportunity with Coastal Racing in this next chapter of my life!