Chances are, only one driver in the field for last Saturday's Busch race at Kansas Speedway had ever uttered the phrase, "It's always fun to do car flips." That was 28-year-old Stanton Barrett, who, when he isn't driving a car in competition, is intentionally rolling one over in his capacity as a professional stuntman. "I did a car flip though a barn once," says Barrett, who has been performing stunts since he was 15. "That was pretty fun."
Barrett has appeared in more than 100 television shows and movies, including Batman & Robin and The Lost World: Jurassic Park. In addition to his work with cars, he is adept at hanging from helicopters, being set on fire and falling from great heights. "I won't say I'm not afraid of anything," Barrett says, "but I am good at overcoming my fear. If they pay me enough, I'll do anything."
One can make a pretty good living with such a motto, and Barrett has. However, he has pumped most of the money he has made from movies and TV into his racing career. "It's not something I take lightly," says Barrett, who finished 28th at Kansas, "because I've spent way too much on it and I've lost way too much not pursuing stunts."
Barrett acquired his taste for thrills and speed from his dad, Stan, a longtime Hollywood stuntman and former world-land-speed-record holder who also drove the original Skoal Bandit car in Winston Cup in the early 1980s. Stanton spent his early years in California—he learned to swim in Burt Reynolds's pool—and went to high school in Boone, N.C., where he got hooked on racing. In 12 years of driving Stanton has competed at various levels, including Winston Cup; he ran two races in 1999 in Junie Donlavey's car. Recently he put together a five-race Busch deal, the third race of which was at Kansas Speedway, in a car he co-owns with his friend Jody Looney.
The key to the deal was finding sponsors to help cut into the $50,000 tab the team runs each weekend. The second race the two planned to run was at Dover. On Sept. 11, 11 days before the race, American Airlines Flight 11—with Barrett's friend Carolyn Beug, a former executive at Walt Disney Records, aboard—crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center. In the wake of the tragedy Barrett abandoned $12,000 in sponsorship money and instead restyled his car to promote two websites: www.mercycorps.org and www.firedonations.com.
"It was a perfect opportunity to do something to help," he says. "It's all we could do. We couldn't volunteer our time, and we weren't in a position to help financially because we had put everything we had into this race program." Barrett had his car as high as 18th place at Dover before finishing 27th. Three weeks earlier he had finished 20th at Darlington—impressive results for a part-time, makeshift team.
To spend this fall at the track Barrett had to forgo working on God and Generals, a Civil War flick due out next year, with his older brother, David, who is also a stuntman. In fact, he hasn't done any stunt work since July. He's trying to line up a full-time ride for 2002, but when his current deal runs out, his coffers will be empty, and that means one thing. "As soon as this ends," he says, "I'll be right back on a movie set."