Even at age 10, Amy Barnes knew she wanted to become a prime time race car driver some day.
There's still no doubt in her mind about that goal, although now five months away from her 21st birthday, the 5-foot-3, 105-pound blonde from Minden hardly looks like a race car driver. She looks more like a registered nurse - which just happens to be another of her goals - but she remains right on track to make that racing dream come true.
Barnes is in her third full campaign on the United States Auto Club (USAC) Western Sprint Car Series - and is currently tied for 12th in the season point standings - so she has already achieved the goal of becoming a professional driver, but she wants more.
First of all, no woman has ever won a main event at a Western Sprint
Car Series sanctioned event, or any other USAC event, for that matter. Her wide smile was enough to indicate that Barnes fully intends to take her best shot at becoming the first when the series returns to Champion Speedway in Carson City on Saturday, Sept. 15.
"We hope to win some main event this year, hopefully we'll win Carson City," Barnes said. "I think we have the ability and the car to do it. With good luck we'll change that."
Good fortune wasn't riding with Barnes on Aug. 11 when the Western Series came to Champion Speedway. Barnes saw the green flag for her heat race, but that's about all, because a collision with John Wilkinson on Turn 1 knocked her car out for the rest of the night.
"Honestly, I was going on the outside and I saw a car heading toward me, and the next thing I knew, I hit the wall," Barnes recalled. "We damaged a lot of parts and there just wasn't enough time to put it all together by the time the B main ran.
"It was hard ... my hometown track and I didn't even get one lap on the green flag. Being in that position was the wrong place at the wrong time, I guess, but that's racing."
Barnes has been knocking on the door to pick up her first main event victory - most notable being her second-place finish last year at Madera Speedway in California's Central Valley. She also won three heat races in 2000.
"We were second at Madera and I think if we'd had a few more laps, we could have got them," Barnes said. "We've been up there. We've had some good luck, and bad luck. But we will, for sure, win one of them this year."
Barnes finished the 2000 season 11th overall in the points standings and received the Series' Most Improved Driver award. She was 16th in the points in 1999.
Her ultimate goal is to drive in the Winston Cup Series.
"That's the main direction I want to go," Barnes said. "Right now, it's just a matter of sponsorship and who wants to pick me up and let me drive for them."
NASCAR would be a considerable jump, one that will require some time. In the meantime, Barnes will continue to try and attract that attention.
"We're really interested in what next year's gonna bring to us," she said. "We're not sure where we're going to go next year, but we're thinking about doing sprint cars nationally and T.V. races and stuff."
Breaking into USAC's Western Sprint Series was no small accomplishment in itself.
"I think when you first come into a series like this, people look at you kind of weird, like, 'OK, what is she gonna do?," Barnes said. "In this type of car ... the horsepower ... being a female ... and I'm pretty little, I think they look at me and say, 'She can't handle this' ... but I think I have proven myself; that I can race cars and that one day, I will be going somewhere.
"I think once you prove that to them, then they accept you more as a friend and as a race car driver."
Meanwhile, Barnes says she will be ready for the homecoming at Champion Speedway on Sept. 15.
"Being our home track, just minutes from my house, in front of all my friends, that motivates me to go that extra mile and want to win it more," Barnes said.
Her racing resume dates back to 1992 when she began racing Outlaw Karts and earned Rookie of the Year honors. Barnes attended the Lyn St. James Driver Development Program (Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1995 and Indianapolis Motor Speedway in '96), as well as the Jimmy Sills School of Open Wheel racing in '96, the same year she moved up to race Sprint 100's. All the while, she has spent a considerable amount of practice time on Champions' 1/3-mile layout, experience she hopes will give her an edge next Saturday.
"It gives me the extra laps that everybody else doesn't have. I know the little secrets in that track that gives me the extra umph," Barnes said. "It's kind of a difficult track because it is so tight. I think you have to use your mind and you need a lot of patience on this track, a lot, because it is so small."
Barnes looks for every edge she can find, which includes compensating for her small stature by working out. For example, she lifts weights to build strength and runs to enhance endurance.
"Endurance is a big part of racing, I think. Having that extra endurance helps you go that extra mile," she said.
Off the track, she will continue classes at Western Nevada Community College this fall.
"Last semester, I was at Truckee Meadows, but this coming semester I will be back at Western Nevada Community College," she said. "I'm studying nursing, pediatrics. Hopefully, in about two years, after my nursing program, I will be an r.n. (registered nurse), hopefully working in a hospital and then I'll get into my pediatrics.
"My two main goals in life are to become a professional race car driver and to have my degree in nursing," Barnes said. "People look at you and say, 'What?' It is two different sides of the rainbow, I guess you could say, but I think it's good, and you know, something that I've always wanted to do. I'll achieve those goals. I will."
Is there any doubt?
Amy Barnes #12
Engine: 360 cubic inch Ed Hansen Chevrolet short block V-8
Top speed: 130 mph
Weight: 1,400 pounds without driver or fuel
Transmission: In/Out direct drive with Winters Quick Change rear end
Lubrication: Barnes four-stage dry sump oiling system
Fuel system: Hilborne Fuel Injection with Waterman fuel pump
Ignition: Hunt Magneto
Wheelbase: 86-88 inches
Suspension: Carerra shocks
Shock absorbers: Carerra shocks
Tires: Hoosier bias-ply
Wheels: Weld Wheels - 15-inch aluminum
Steering: Sweet Steering Components