Ray Cook has a lot going on in his racing life. The Brasstown, NC resident is well known as the promoter of the Southern Nationals family of racing series as well as the owner and operator of the Tri-County Race Track in his hometown, as well as a Late Model driver in his own right. And more, Cook also serves as a supplier of racing tires through his American Racer South operation.
To assist with that workload, Cook has enlisted the help of a familiar face around many of the race tracks in the southeastern region of the United States. Matt Barrett has joined forces with the ‘Tarheel Tiger’ to sell American Racer tires as well as to assist with the various series Cook is involved with.
“My role right now is to take a lot of load off of Ray in the area we deal in and try to get new guys with the tires,” Barrett explained to InsideDirtRacing.com. “I’m going to try to do what I can with my knowledge and years of experience to help the racers to give them an affordable tire with more longevity. Hopefully we can teach them as we go.”
Barrett moved to Tennessee from California in 2004 to chase his dream of working within the racing industry. Since then, he maintained the Eric Jacobsen Racing operation for five years back when that driver competed in the Late Model ranks. The association with Jacobsen also allowed Barrett to work closely with National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame member Scott Bloomquist.
“In terms of teaching we’re talking about the sizing and what tire fits them, the air pressure, and the important aspects of the tire that many people don’t understand,” Barrett pointed out. “I mean they’re the only four things that actually touch the ground on these things. Some guys don’t really understand that and that’s what I hope my knowledge and experience can bring. My role is to take care of as many racers as I can in the areas that we cover. And not only that, I will be doing some tech stuff for the Southern Nationals.”
And while the Late Model classes receive much of the attention of companies that supply equipment to racers, Barrett believes that teams in all divisions deserve support and he hopes to assist Mini-Stock racers all the way through the ranks to the Late Model stars.
“It’s very important for the Mini-Stock guy to understanding his tires and things like the wheel offsets that I can use my experience to help with,” the Clinton, Tenn. resident said. “Those guys are going to appreciate that one-on-one help that I can give. Through the years that guy might be the next big star. These guys are all here because they love this sport. Just because a guy is in a Mini-Stock doesn’t mean he should be treated any different. They’re just as important to our deal as the Late Model guy.”
Having worked on race cars for numerous years, Barrett believes he can show racers how to get the most out of a set of tires.
“You work on how to maintenance them after the race weekend, how to wash, how to keep them put up, to keep them buffed to keep the freshness in them because you don’t want these guys to go broke buying tires every week,” the 38-year-old said. “You’d like to see the weekly racers get four or five weeks out of their tires so they can afford to get something else for their car or get back to the race track the next weekend.”
For his part, Cook is excited to add Barrett to his team.
“The territory that American Racer South has is a big territory,” Cook explained. “It covers nine states and it’s a big undertaking. We’ve been growing gradually every year, I wouldn’t say by leaps and bounds but it’s been a good, steady progression. We just keep getting more customers every year. Matt is going to be a big plus to the people in Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi and those areas. I’ve got Gary Bennett working the Carolinas and him and Matt have a great relationship. I’m going to just try to make sure they have what they need so they can work with the people they work with.”
Not only is he glad to have someone to assist with the current workload but he also hopes Barrett can help to bring in more business.
“I hope this brings in new loads,” Cook insisted. “That’s what we got him for. I tell everybody I’m the busiest guy in the country that ain’t got anything to do. The series are spread out real nice this year with the three different schedules, and hopefully I can get to race a little more this year. There’s a lot of people out there who used to run these tires and are interested in running them again. He’s been around racing from back when he worked with Eric Jacobsen and he ran these tires back then.”
Cook says that Barrett brings more to the table than just his experience and knowledge.
“He’s got a good personality and that’s what it takes. There’s not a long list of people wanting to go around to race tracks selling tires so we’re proud to have him on board, and I know the factory is, and we’re looking forward to 2019.”