No Excuses To Be Made For Tommy Barrett Jr. Throwing Away Whelen Mod Tour Ride

Tommy Barrett Jr. celebrates after his first Whelen Modified Tour victory last August at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)
Tommy Barrett Jr. celebrates after his first Whelen Modified Tour victory last August at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

At short tracks across America drivers arrive week after week to run weekly grassroots divisions in possession of the dream that maybe one day a team owner will discover them and carry them to the next level of racing.

Tommy Barrett Jr. got to the live that dream.

Less than three years removed from the SK Light Modified division at Stafford Motor Speedway, Barrett was handpicked to replace legendary NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour driver Mike Stefanik in the stout Our Motorsports ride.

Barrett got handed to him what thousands of short track racers have only dreamed of.

And for that reason, there’s simply no reason to make any excuses for the 19-year old driver.

On Saturday the management of Our Motorsports announced that Keith Rocco would replace Barrett full-time in the team’s Whelen Modfied Tour ride.

Barrett was suspended from the ride last week after it came to light that he had been arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs in Willimantic on April 17.

Since the news of Barrett’s arrest and subsequent suspension had been announced there had been a vocal and hearty segment of fans and backers offering the opinion through all realms of social media that Barrett has been treated too harshly for his transgression. And those cries that Barrett was treated too harshly only continued Saturday after the announcement that Our Motorsports was parting ways with him.

And that sentiment is simply ridiculous.

Feel compassion for the situation Barrett has put himself in, but there’s no excuses to be made for him.

There’s no rationalizing the behavior that cost him his ride. No chalking it up to “youthful ignorance.” Saying “He’s just a kid who made a mistake” is simply laughable.

The fact is, racing is a business where one mistake can ruin a career. One mistake can make the best situation go up in smoke.

And Barrett surely knew well enough that every time he showed up to a racetrack that there were plenty of young talented drivers watching him that would do just about anything for the same opportunity he had. Drivers that, if given the same chance Barrett had, would covet that opportunity with all their being.

Barrett chose to gamble his big break, and the scarier part is – even before his arrest – it was no secret that he was gambling with fate even before he was a regular on the Whelen Modified Tour.

Barrett made a conscious decision to chance throwing it all away when he got behind the wheel of a car under the influence. And there’s simply no making any excuses for that fact.

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  1. old observer says

    Hope he learns from his mistake and good luck to him in the future. We all make mistakes & I don’t know anyone who hasn’t made a few. The tragedy is not learning form yours or others mistakes. It is a shame that he messed up such a great opportunity.

  2. AND chose to not only put my family in danger…….but every one of you (and your family) who drive on the road. I don’t care if your name is Bob Smith, Tommy Barett or even Pope Francis…..if you CHOOSE (because it is a choice) to drink and then get behind the wheel you showing that you have no respect for your own life or those sharing the road with you. He should be thanking God that he was caught before it got worse and he killed someone.

  3. Joe tobin says

    Keith I want to wish you luck with your new ride !!

  4. And thank god we can put this to rest now ! I was told by more than person that this kid was going to self destruct . I am not a fan but I have to say this guy is very talented . I hope that he gets his act together and gets back in the game .

  5. And writer of this article you NEVER did anything when you were younger you regretted? What a bunch of bull and I’m not even a fan of his. Keith you can rise above the “God” just be true to yourself.

  6. Oh and Keith my brother was killed by a drunk driver at the age of 18. Learn your lesson and show this jerk who wrote this you can rise above.

  7. Rose are you on something as you’re writing this? Sure seems like it….

  8. I apologize I meant Tommy not Keith. This article pissed me off more than I have ever been. The cops could stop every person leaving a track and take half down with DUIs. Unless someone can prove this kid has an actual problem this is just evil. I go to most tracks maybe a whisper in the cops ears who they should follow home would help.

  9. VaRacer says

    The author of this piece was right on several counts. This young man is already paying for his mistake not only lost his ride also the courts will impose their sentence, The one sided writer never gave any constructive help how about recommending a rehab place or outlining the Nascar Rehab program. Just write him off at 19. Very vindictive article .

  10. Chris D. says

    Saying “everyone does it”, or looking at what you can do (rehab) after the fact is a load of crap in my opinion. Most people know there are consequences for stupid, dangerous, illegal behavior. The good news is, when someone gets caught, like in this case, they can redeem themselves if they do the appropriate things. It is not easy nor should it be.

  11. I have no forgiveness for anyone who drives under the influence. If you’ve ever been in a car and been slammed, passed a vehicle that was mangled, or lost someone close to you by someone who didn’t give a damn (sorry Shawn) about where their next drink and/or fix came from, then you would understand. That someone could be so cavalier about the lives of other people on the road is both despicable and unconscionable.

  12. Weighing on my mind says

    The part missed is the talent the kid has. Everyone would love the chance but talent ,lack of that is, would weed out the rest and send them packing.

    America loves people who admit they were wrong, apologize and ask for forgiveness. I understand it’s only been a couple weeks and he has to get past the legal battle then he should come clean and move on. If you admit your wrong then there is no more arguing or debate.

    Remember AJ Almendinger? Said he’s wrong now he’s fine. Marv Albert, same thing. bill Cosby not so much. He’s denying still, same with Jeremy Mayfield. Only one way to do it

  13. Great Story!!!!

  14. Jason Thompson says

    I also feel no remorse for Tommy Barrett, I like the kid and he can wheel a car but in this business you need to show up and use your head.. There are millions of kids who would love to grow up and be as good as Tommy and most of them won’t even get a shot. But if your gonna party and play extra curricular activities then you dont deserve to be behind the wheel of a top running team in anything.. I commend Team Owner for doing this.. Set the example now and do it before NASCAR does cause It can be alot worse!!! That’s my thoughts. Im also not gonna sit here and argue with people about this. I have no Tolerance for Drinking and Driving or Drugs of any use and that’s all I have to say about it. 1st time or not Our Motorsports handled this the CORRECT way.

  15. mare harlow says

    I am not going to “bash” either Tommy Barrett or the author of this article – just simply state a fact:
    1. The LEGAL drinking age in CT is 21, (therefore, the Police have EVERY right to arrest not only Tommy Barrett, but whomever served liquor to someone under age)
    2. DWI/DUI in CT is a SERIOUS offense. Suspension of your CT driver’s license for a MINIMUM of 90 days (1st offense); CDL (commercial driver’s license suspension for a minimum of 120 days, whether you are in a commercial vehicle or your own car)
    3. Our Motorsports was well within their rights as a team owner to do what they felt is the “right thing to do” for the good of the team.

    I understand Our Motorsports did not find out about Tommy’s arrest from him, but from social media (correct me if I am wrong), BUT – the outcome for Tommy MAY have been a whole lot different had he contacted his car owner 1st? A car owner can invest a LOT of $$$ in a NWMT race team, he/she cannot afford to lose sponsorship $ because of someone’s indescretions.
    I hope Tommy learns from this mistake before it’s too late, & maybe still have a chance to showcase his talent driving a race car once again. I would hate to see him end up like another AWESOMELY talented driver gone too young (Robbie Moroso).
    Tommy – if you are reading this: you’re a smart young man with A LOT of talent & potential. Let this be a wake up call & do whatever you must do to make things right. I wish you all the best.

  16. Does anyone know what it is like to drink? I sit here and I hear everyone say how in control you are of your actions and your body, and that is not necessarily always the case. When you have alcohol or drugs in your system it changes the way your mind operates. Did he choose to drink or drug? Yes! I’m sure you cannot find one 19 year old, or even younger child who does not drink and/or drug. There is still a developing part of the brain, which causes poor decisions to be made in young humans. I have not heard RaceDayCt offer advice for Tommy to get help. They keep pounding him into the ground. He is still a child, you are an adult. How would you feel if someone was writing about your kid this way (you probably do not have kids). Before you go bashing and writing articles why don’t you let the court process carry out. In the meantime, stop bashing someone who might be dealing with a real sickness. The only part of Tommy’s life that anyone knows is his racing life. Nobody knows what goes on when he leaves that race track. He is dealing with the consequences. Stop focusing on all the negativity and give some more positive feedback on Keith Rocco.

  17. Chris D. says

    Even if an excuse could be made for the DUI,(I don’t think so), how do you explain the race team hearing about it 6 days later through social media??? What’s the “excuse” for that! The only thing I would add to Shawn’s thoughts on the matter is there are many deserving VETERAN drivers as well as young up and coming drivers who would covet the opportunity TB screwed up. There is nothing “too harsh” about being replaced in the 22.

  18. Chris D. says

    Billy, first, how can you assume all “children” Tommy’s age drink???!!! Second, if he can’t help himself and must drink, then why not STAY HOME and do it???!!! Am I supposed to believe his young brain didn’t know better than to get behind the wheel??? Excuses are like a-holes, everyone has one? Sorry if I’m being Too Harsh!

  19. Underage drinking (TB is 19, legal age in CT is 21), OUI, DWI, are all bad. All negative. The problems are when all these transgressions are obscured, hidden, and attention deflected to the “positive”, as if talking about how good this is for Rocco makes it all better. This is not good for Rocco, this is nothing but negative for Barrett. He did it to himself.

    For those that wish to sweep this under the rug, get over it. It is a big lump in the rug that people are going to trip over, it will bring attention to itself even when under the rug.

    Some of you enjoy the challenge of getting away with transgressions, and then play the victim when caught. You rationalize and enable. You are the problem.

    Being caught doing a “youthful indiscretion” is a calculated risk, has nothing to be with being unfair. Just because many have gotten away with being stupid doesn’t mean those that get caught are getting a bad deal.

    For those of you that want to “make this go away”, deal with it and make sure it doesn’t happen.

    Billy, don’t try to pull that… a “sickness” is still no excuse, it is an explanation. The person and the sickness are one in the same. The rest of society has to protect itself from the “sick” people that can’t take care of themselves. Is it a person operating under the influence, or a sickness driving a car?

  20. NH Mod Chaser says

    Thank you Shawn for a great web site !! And for all you cry babies out their where are you going to go if Shawn shut this thing down???? Tommy Strong >>>>>>>>>>>>>>

  21. Chris D…
    Do you or do you not live in today’s society? I know of kids younger then Tommy that start drinking! Times have changed. You do not see very many people sitting home drinking alone. You mean to tell me that you have never had a drink and gotten behind the wheel? I believe that’s a big bunch of bull. The writer of this article, Shawn, must be really jealous of Tommy, because I have not seen any other article go as deep and into Tommy’S life as he has. Also Chris, it is innocent until proven guilty. If you ever make a mistake in life I honestly hope they treat you guilty before you even go before a judge. Get real loser, find something better to do with your life the sitting around and trying to teach a 19 year old over social media that his actions were wrong.

  22. Billy -Congrats on winning “the Most ridiculous Statement of the Day Award!” the winning statement is:

    “I’m sure you cannot find one 19 year old, or even younger child who does not drink and/or drug.”

    Oh i’m pretty sure I can.

    In addition, Tommy Barrett IS an ADULT in the eyes of the law – he is NOT a CHILD. 18 years old is the legal adult age, has been for decades.

    Facts, people. They’re indisputable.

    You Drink, You Drive, You Lose.

  23. Billy says, “Do you or do you not live in today’s society? I know of kids younger then Tommy that start drinking! Times have changed.”

    The laws are still the laws. Underage drinking, drugs, and DWI/OUI driving is still illegal, no matter what else has changed, no matter how young kids might be doing this.

    So sad that you do not know of kids that do not want to do this illegal behavior.

  24. Chris D. says

    OK Billy…you have convinced me I am wrong and I am a loser. Now, you can teach us all, what should the arresting officer have done with Barrett that morning at 2am? What should OUR Motorsports have done when they found out about it? What should NASCAR have done when they found out about it? What should Shawn have done when found out about it? Finally, what should Barrett be doing about it? That’s 5 questions for you Billy, I don’t want to go to fast for you, but please, enlighten me with your answers to those 5 difficult questions so I can be smart and successful…just like you!

  25. I am not a TB fan, but the guy many people consider the best in a modified R Evans was no angel! So let the kid learn from his mistake he has plenty of time to think it over and it will make him a better person.

  26. Sharpie Fan says

    ” I would hate to see him end up like another AWESOMELY talented driver gone too young (Robbie Moroso).”
    My thoughts exactly!

  27. To all of you saying he was DRUNK need to know facts. The ONLY information given with this issue of Tommy Barrett is that he was under the influence of drugs OR alcohol. Not once have we seen he was drunk. And to be a minor and be considering under the influence you need to blow a 0.02 which can be as little as one beer. Inform yourself on the rules and laws of Connecticut. Yes Tommy screwed up but don’t crucify him or state false information. No where does it say he was drunk or high. It states under the influence of drugs OR alcohol. Tommy is a great kid, yes he messed up and he is suffering the consequences. You’re all adults. Stop crucifying the kid.

  28. steph… does it matter if it was alcohol, drugs, or both? Does it matter? Stop defending the bad behavior.

    As little as one beer? TB is a small kid, not a lot of body mass, one beer can be too much.

    You said he screwed up. He did it to himself. He is crucifying himself.

    rich, how could something like this make TB a better person? Better than a practicing addict or alcoholic? I can see that. But he should have known that what he was doing was wrong and dangerous.

  29. The “he’s only a 19 year old child that doesn’t know any better and all 19 year old children drive under the influence” excuse is getting old. He’s not a baby folks, he’s a driver on the modified tour. Do you really think if this was happening to any other driver on the tour Shawn would just ignore it?

  30. Again, Tommy Barrett is not a kid. Tommy Barrett is not a minor. Tommy Barrett is 19 years old.
    In addition to the influence charge, Tommy was also arrested for driving unreasonably fast….. at 1:48 am! As well as failing to signal properly for a turn.

    That’s how innocent people get hurt / killed.

    In my opinion, Barrett underestimated what the consequences would/could be when he evaluated the choices and made a poor decision that night. Yes, he erred. But at a steep price….throwing away a golden opportunity that other kids literally could only dream about.

  31. Not sure where every one is getting their info on Tommy being high or drunk. Innocent until proven guilty means nothing now a days? In this time it’s guilty until proven innocent, same thing with Kurt Busch. None of you have anything to back up your thoughts and opinions and I pray you feel humiliated when this all gets taken care of. Who is any of you to judge? If you’re so perfect go back to your glass houses and stop bashing this KID, whom I remind you does have a family and also is someone’s child.. If I was his father or even mother I’d be disgusted reading these comments. Unreasonably fast? Does anyone REALLY know what that means? Maybe he was speeding up to switch lanes or maybe he was going 2mph over the speed limit. It’s sad, instead of giving this KID (whom is obviously scared and confused) support and advice, you ADULTS sit on social media all day to bash him. Where are your so perfect lives? Oh it’s smashing Tommy in the ground with your OPINIONS and THOUGHTS on what you THINK you know.

  32. rose wrote:

    “And writer of this article you NEVER did anything when you were younger you regretted? What a bunch of bull and I’m not even a fan of his. Keith you can rise above the “God” just be true to yourself.”

    And if I ever did anything that I regretted, and I saw someone else doing it, I wouldn’t hesitate to let them know they are being stupid-idiot-morons. It is the responsibility of those that are wiser to pass that wisdom to others, and notably those that are younger, so they DO NOT make those same stupid mistakes. Letting others learn the “hard way” because of the lack of mature and responsible adult guidance, and by that I mean adults that are afraid to be parents, is unacceptable.

    It is absolutely preposterous and irresponsible to think of letting someone off on such a dangerous transgression because others did the same and didn’t get caught. Those that are defending this kid, behavior, and transgressions are the problem, they are the enablers.

  33. Rose wrote: “I apologize I meant Tommy not Keith. This article pissed me off more than I have ever been. The cops could stop every person leaving a track and take half down with DUIs. Unless someone can prove this kid has an actual problem this is just evil. I go to most tracks maybe a whisper in the cops ears who they should follow home would help.”

    What did’t happen to others is irrelevant. TB was nabbed for drug or alcohol impairment, failing to signal, and speeding. Let’s face it… given the odds, if you get caught, you deserve to be caught.

    Nothing good happens after midnight. What was this kid doing out at that hour on a Friday?

    I drive plenty late at night when I go fishing, especially on the weekends. All around the clock. I have called the police several times to report OUI… cars operating all over the road, 20 MPH on the interstate where the speed limit is 65 MPH, and so on. Rose, do you think I was being unfair?

  34. Shawn, TB was in a single car accident about two seasons ago when leaving an event at Thompson, and was injured. Any relation or common links between the incidents?

    Our did the right thing. This kid is getting some tough love, from all the wrong places. Looks to be long overdue.

  35. darealgoodfella,
    Not my place to speculate on the circumstances … Two Weeks After Life Threatening Car Wreck, Tommy Barrett Jr. Wins In Return To Stafford Motor Speedway

  36. Nothing mentioned that things started to sour between Tommy and Mr. Our when he didn’t make the ARCA race at Daytona and this might have been his chance to get rid of Tommy.How long has he been a car owner ?Maybe 3 years , and 3 drivers my bet is Tommy will be racing long after Mr Our calls it quits

  37. Chris D. says

    T Barrett ran a limited schedule in the VMRS the last couple of years, will he still do that? It’s not NASCAR, right? Was he at Monadnock? Will he run th VMRS car at Stafford? If not, why not?

  38. Chris,
    I don’t know what his status is with the VMRS management. Not even sure it would be something they’ve even addressed at this point.

  39. Chris D. says

    The VMRS drivers’ roster on the website does not have Barrett anywhere on it… it is probably not up to date though, because TC is not on it either, and they have the #85 that Szegedy drove to victory at Monadnock listed as TBA. Maybe the #9 Barrett drove last year was not in his plans due to the fact he was going ARCA racing this year.

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