We normally spotlight a “driver of the week” in the Southeast Super Truck Series, but this week we felt the need to change gears a little. On Monday May 19th, 2014 the SEST lost a member of their family. We got the news just after noon that we’d lost Ricky Barnette. Barnette was better known by all his friends as “Heavy”. He was the kind of person who helped make the SEST series as successful as it has been to date.
A native of Buncombe County, North Carolina, Heavy went on to become a plumber by trade, working for A.C WIlliams Co.for many years, but racing was always in his heart.
He worked for Bosco Lowe when he ran full time in the “Busch Grand National Series” learning all aspects of race cars. He went on to helping local racers including Michael Bucker in the mid 1990s at the Asheville Motor Speedway when Bucker was just getting started in the Rookie Division.
By 1997 Heavy was helping Jerry Mears as he was getting started racing.
By 2003 Heavy had put together a couple of race cars. Newport Motor Speedway had begun rotating by running Late Model’s one week and Super Late Models the next. Bucker was Heavy’s driver in the Late Model while the search for the driver of the Super Late Model was a process.
Keith Rankin told me that Heavy began asking him for a resume in 2002 and Rankin would always tell him he’d get him one. Heavy was persistent and finally handed Keith a blank piece of paper and wanted him to write down everything he’d done in racing. From that piece of paper a deal was struck to go to Mobile Alabama for a Southern All Star race.
They had ran mid pack the whole race and with 10 laps to go got caught up in a three car tangle that caused the hood to come up and block the windshield. Heavy told Rankin to keep digging and that he would guide him through. Rankin said he drove the last 10 laps with Heavy telling him when to let off, turn in the corner and when to get back in the throttle.
That race ended up putting Rankin behind the wheel of the Super Late Model at Newport for 2003 and a few Southern All Star events at Montgomery and Huntsville in Alabama as well as Lanier in Georgia. Together both drivers had success driving for ”Heavy Motorsports” at Newport.
When asked to describe their friend and car owner, I was told “Heavy was a die hard racer. He ate, drank and slept racing. A happy go lucky type of guy. He would do anything for you, bend over backwards and loan a fellow racer whatever he needed to get to race.”
Heavy was described as a, “spotter that kept you out of a wreck. A good motivator, it was like he had a crystal ball. Never met a stranger. Loved racing and family.”
David Webb was another “rookie” driver that Heavy came to help. They ended up with an old mod 4 car of Ed Surrett’s and put it together for Webb to drive at Newport. Their friendship grew and Webb went on to start helping Heavy when he got into lettering race cars.
When his mom, Maude, was injured in a car accident, Heavy was by her side 24/7 to get her back on her feet. This is when he made the decision to leave the “plumbing world” to take care of his Mom.
Heavy did the same for his friend Ron Jovi when he was shot and left for dead. Ron and Ricky partnered up and opened RRD ( Ricky Ronnie Designs ).
With Jovi’s talent as a graphic designer and Heavy’s hard work ethic installing the vinyl creations produced by RRD they began a successful business.
By the end of 2013 race season RRD began to pick up many teams in the SEST as well as producing all the graphics for the 2013 SEST Banquet.
Heavy helped many drivers thjroughout his racing career including Jeff Myers, Brian Payne, Tommy McCurry, Scottie Thomas, Mike Smith and most recently Bennie Davis at his last race at Tri- County Motor Speedway, just two days before his death.
Ricky “Heavy” Barnette leaves behind his mom, Maude, and his father John. In addition to his mother and father, Heavy is survived by his two sons, Michael Barnette, Jason Barnette and his wife, Heather; and a daughter, Marianne Barnette; his fiancée, Christy Dills; a half brother, John Lee Barnette; a half sister, Crystal Hensley; one niece and one nephew. Also surviving is his best friend and neighbor, Joyce Lyda.
All of us in the SEST Series will feel a void that may never be filled, but we’ll never forget the impact our friend made in the series.