Screaming engine revs up Conway teen's motor

Bryant Barnhill, right, recently received the UNOH Youth Achievement Award from Myrtle Beach Speedway.

A Conway teenager has been recognized as one of NASCAR’s top rising stars.

Conway Christian School junior Bryant Barnhill was recently awarded the University of Northern Ohio (UNOH) Youth Achievement Award by Myrtle Beach Speedway.

The UNOH awards program recognizes the best young talent in the (NWAAS) NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, which is considered NASCAR’s grassroots level. Its drivers are the future of motorsports.

The 17-year-old began his NWAAS career in August of 2013 at Southern National Motorsports Park.

The teen’s goals for 2016 are to win as many races as possible, and compete for not only the track championship at Myrtle Beach Speedway but for a state championship. The state championship circuit includes races in Myrtle Beach, as well as Greenville-Pickens Speedway in Easley and Anderson Motor Speedway in Williamston.

“I’d love to win a few races at Myrtle Beach and go to Greenville-Pickens and Anderson and win a few there, too,” he said. “If I can’t win a track championship, I will definitely go for the state championship. To run for a state championship in the NWAAS, it’s not required by NASCAR to run the three tracks in South Carolina, but if our team wanted the chance to win a state championship we’d have to.”

Barnhill recently joined the Chad McCumbee Racing team.

“They have been very successful in this area,” Barnhill said. “They have helped us a lot. It’s my car, but I still race for them. They do the setup and handling of the car.”

Barnhill, who has been racing at Myrtle Beach Speedway for more than four years, became the youngest driver to win at the track when he took the checkered flag in the Limited Late Model division when he was just 14. He began racing mini-stocks in 2011, and moved up to chargers/limited late models in 2012.

“I like the competition and the adrenalin rush of being behind the wheel and having all the pressure on me,” he said. “It’s mind blowing.”

Barnhill competes in basketball and soccer at Conway Christian School, but said those sports can’t compare with racing and reaching speeds of up to 108 miles per hour at Myrtle Beach Speedway.

“Racing can definitely take a toll on you,” he said. “I’ve played many other sports and nothing compares to the physicality and the mindset of racing. It’s definitely a crazy feeling to be going that fast and go into a turn and feel the car’s movement and that shift of motion. There’s a lot of G-force and power that goes into that.”

Barnhill’s favorite NASCAR driver is Trevor Bayne, who became the youngest driver to win the Daytona 500, just two days after he turned 20. Barnhill began following Bayne’s career when he competed in Myrtle Beach.

“He has a very strong faith and he’s come up through the bottom ranks like I want to do,” Barnhill said.

Barnhill has been racing competitively since he started running go-karts at three-and-a-half years old. He got his first four-cylinder engine when he was 11.

Barnhill grew up watching his father Chris and his uncle Kevin Barnhill compete. He describes himself as a laidback type of person, who cracks a joke every now and then to get everyone laughing.

“There are times when I’ll be shy and quiet and other times when you can’t get me to shut up,” he said.

Barnhill’s favorite subjects in school are math and English, and his plan is to get a finance degree and work in business and marketing.

Racing will also remain a big part of his future.

“I’d love to go to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series,” he said. “It’s a long ways away right now, but we’re inching toward our goal.”

Barnhill is also looking for sponsors.

“Racing has a hefty price tag,” he said. “That’s where sponsors come through and help us out. We’re always looking for new sponsors. We were very thankful to have Coastal Carolina University onboard at the end of the season last year and the beginning of this year.”

Local businesses interested in sponsoring Barnhill can get in touch with him at bryantbarnhill@aol.com

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