Bryant Barnhill is a 23-year-old third-generation race car driver that hails from Conway, South Carolina. His team is entered in the CARS Tour season finale race at South Boston Speedway in a logo-less flat-black number five car.
Barnhill has run a partial schedule in 2021 to prepare for a barnstorming effort consisting of a lot of NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races. Barnhill will also attempt a few CARS Late Model Stock Tour races plus weekly Late Model racing at Florence Motor Speedway in 2022. His experience, networking, determination, and faith continue to keep his racing dreams alive.
Bryant Barnhill was a familiar face at Myrtle Beach Speedway since before he could walk. The racing bloodline runs deep in his family. Jack Barnhill, Bryant’s grandfather and patriarch of the Barnhill family, ran the show at the now-defunct Conway Kartway. Jack was on the ground floor of Myrtle Beach Speedway back when it was a rough and tumble dirt track called Rambi Raceway. He was a notable dirt track competitor at Lakeview, Sumter, Dublin, and other dirt tracks in the region. Bryant’s dad, Chris Barnhill, was a hobby racer that ran events at the asphalt track. Chris is a local realtor that sells properties in the Horry County area. Bryant’s Uncle, Kevin Barnhill raced as well as Bryant’s nephew who ran in Myrtle Beach Speedway’s final season, he is referred to as “Little Jack.”
“When Myrtle Beach got paved, they switched over to asphalt because it was right here locally,” Bryant said, “When I began my career at three or four years old, I raced at the track in Conway that my grandfather helped open years and years before that. It’s crazy how many legends raced with them. Some of the stories they tell are unbelievable.”
Despite coming from a racing background, Barnhill had to do a lot of leg work to get NASCAR approval in the most economical way possible. Luckily for Bryant, Myrtle Beach Speedway was a major proving ground for Late Model drivers to access a NASCAR license before the track closed in August 2020. Many modern up-and-coming drivers like Ty Gibbs and Anthony Alfredo made starts at Myrtle Beach. Ty Gibbs won his first Late Model Stock event at Myrtle Beach with his dad, coach Joe Gibbs, in the stands. The track was always a big-time test for young drivers looking to take that extra step. Most notably, Myrtle Beach was the catalyst for the career of Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Bryant has been setting himself up to run more races in NASCAR’s national series. Barnhill has entered select truck series races with lower-tier teams within the last three years. He has been getting starts under his belt at larger tracks. His heart will always hold a special place for Late Model Stock Car racing, but as many drivers and teams know, it is an extreme undertaking to keep up with costs to make a living in short-track racing.
“Honestly, growing up at the short track and racing Late Models. If I could make a living racing Late Model Stocks, I would be the happiest driver going to the racetrack every week regardless of my situation. That’s just how much short-track racing and Late Model Stock racing has meant to me. Looking at next year, as of right now it’s looking to be really crazy with a lot of national series races, but I’d like to support an awesome series like the CARS Tour and Late Model Stock Car racing in general.”
When Myrtle Beach Speedway was sold to land developers, (as of October 2021, no company has made an effort to develop the property), there was a void in the soul of Horry County South Carolina. Myrtle Beach Speedway not only hosted racing, but it also hosted the county fair, concerts, hippie-fests, car and truck shows, drifting events, and soccer tournaments. When tracks close, as they continue to fight elements of suburban sprawl, noise complaints, effects from the pandemic, and material shortages, it can affect the most grassroots teams in their efforts to test and tune their cars.
“We didn’t really have the best of stuff,” Barnhill mentioned. “My car that we’re taking this weekend is thirteen or fourteen years old. I bought it when it was only ten years old. We were extremely blessed to have Myrtle Beach just up the road. We could save so much money with our travel costs. We would buy one set of tires, we would practice on that set for three or four weeks, if not more. Now that we’re having to travel more, it’s harder to do that financially.”
Barnhill has an intriguing sponsor that is rooted in a childhood friendship. Barnhill is sponsored partially by a local South Carolina rock band. The Bailey Road Band is a secondary sponsor that uniquely decided to invest in the car. The Southern Rock group plays at local bars up and down the Grand Strand/Myrtle Beach area. They play at places like Roca Roja Cantina in Cherry Grove and Hotfish Club in Murrells Inlet. Barnhill stated that his team would likely add sponsor graphics to his Late Model Stock for the South Carolina 400. That event will be on November 20th at Florence Motor Speedway in November.
“I’m very lucky to have connections and sponsors like Crowe Equipment out of Indiana and Uland Heavy Equipment Trucking on the truck side of things,” Bryant said. “Local partners such as Mastertech, Myrtle Beach Dustless Blasting; they make my job easier when I don’t necessarily have to find them. We have been extremely blessed to have everybody come on board.”
Barnhill decided to save some resources and keep the car flat-black for the South Boston event but says his partners will be along for the ride when they show up to the Virginia racetrack this weekend. Barnhill would love to play spoiler as the tour finishes the year at South Boston. Barnhill dedicates himself to his faith. Alongside nearly every racing-related post from his social media platforms, the phrase “I am second”, is often seen. He puts his faith in God to bring it home in one piece and keep him safe through all of the wild situations that stock car racing can produce.
Follow Bryant Barnhill and the CARS Late Model Stock Tour on race22’s Facebook page and race22.com as the 2021 season will conclude in South Boston Virginia.
Cover photo by Steve Murray/Redmoon Photography.