AJ Barker and a Hobby with Speed

Some may know twenty-year-old AJ Barker for his work helping manicure and beautify the landscape at Covenant Village. Others know AJ as a competitive race car driver.

As a homeschooled teen, AJ was able to complete his assignments in just a few hours each day, leaving him with more time than the average teenager for work and recreation. While still in high school, AJ started working part-time at Covenant Village, gaining a wealth of knowledge from Chip (CV’s Grounds Supervisor). Having graduated and transitioned to a full-time position at CV a little over a year ago, AJ still makes time for his beloved sport: Pro 4 dirt car racing.

AJ grew up watching his dad race dirt cars. AJ himself has been racing for five years. He has won several races, three of which took place this season. His most recent win was the Shrine Race, which raises money for Shriner’s Hospital for Children. This was AJ’s biggest win to date!

Many races are local at Carolina Speedway, but some require further travel. Winners receive a trophy and a little pocket money, but the racers’ favorite part about winning, per AJ, is receiving the “winning sticker.”

AJ uses two cars while racing – a primary and a backup car. The cars are owned by his father and the gentleman AJ drives for – an electrical business owner – who share a 50/50 partnership in the racecars. Each season, AJ has the opportunity to work with a designer and personally choose the colors of his car. He almost always defaults to neon yellow and blue – his favorite combo.

AJ said the metal race cars get extremely hot, noting that simply placing one’s feet on the floorboard for too long will cause the soles of one’s shoes to melt. The exhaust manifold is on the driver’s side, running straight under the seat, adding to the intense heat. The racers try to stay as hydrated as possible with water and Gatorade. They’ve also learned to wait until the last minute to put their gear on. AJ said, “You kinda get used to it [the heat] just like anything else.” Some drivers run helmet blowers that run cool air into their helmets to keep them cooler in high temperatures. AJ doesn’t use this contraption yet but hopes to someday.

It is assumed and expected that wrecks come with this speed sport – of which AJ has been in several. Thankfully, he has never suffered injuries beyond soreness. His worst wreck occurred a couple of months ago when his car flipped – the first and only time he has rolled his car.

AJ has a few good friends that race professionally – something he would love to do someday, but which remains a dream for most. “It’s hard to afford it [race professionally] without a rich family member. People who race professionally have families that own big businesses,” noted AJ.

AJ’s dad retired from racing in 2013. It was his dad and close friends who taught him what he knows about racing. Some Covenant Village employees have enjoyed attending AJ’s races, rooting him on.

If you’re interested in checking out AJ’s races, they can be viewed on YouTube at “Bam Racing Videos.”

Praying that you have a great and safe racing season, AJ!

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