If you have ever seen Barber Motorsports Park on television, you already know it’s a beautiful racetrack. However, when you pull into the facility, you likely still won’t be prepared for what you see.
The grounds are professionally landscaped. The infield is covered with Bermuda grass. There are magnolia trees planted around the facilities. There are miles of manicured hedges lining the track. There are roses planted throughout the grounds, and if you go there in winter, you’ll find they all have been properly pruned. Oh, and the tires in the tire barriers are new. Then there are all the sculptures displayed around the property. The massive steel spider at Turn 5A is the track’s most famous piece of artwork, earning that turn the name “Charlotte’s Web.” There are immense dragonflies perched on rocks, Native American figures, horses, flowers, a Sisyphean figure pushing a boulder, and giant steel ants on the outside of turns 3 and 4. The odd thing is that the ants and many of the sculptures aren’t visible to spectators or drivers. They are situated in the infield, in wooded areas and places tucked largely out of sight, unless you have photo credentials and can wander around inside the racing surface.
The Barber family, which owns and operates the facility, has been in the Birmingham, Ala., area for generations. They have been in the dairy business since the 1930s and, in fact, the property on which the track was built was once used for grazing. If you peer into the coolers in stores in the area, you will find Barber milk on the shelves. When you listen to people who work at the track, they speak reverently of Mr. Barber, who oversees operations at the track. The track is so fastidiously cared for that if you drop a wheel or two or four, you will be billed for the turf you tear up, because Barber replaces it to keep the place looking sharp. This is the kind of place where if you see a napkin or a gum wrapper blowing across the paddock, you stop, pick it up and put it in the trash.
Then, of course, there is the track itself, which is a treat for any racing driver. Designed by Alan Wilson, who also is responsible for Miller Motorsports Park, Carolina Motorsports Park and Autobahn Country Club, to name a few, the Barber road course measures 45 feet wide, covers 2.38 miles with 16 turns and 80 feet of elevation change. It has four levels of paddock facilities and a world-class tower and viewing deck in the main building along the front straight. It is a delight to drive on, even if it’s just a rental car. Not that we did that.
The Barber Vintage Motorsport Museum also is located on the property. It houses 1,200 vintage and modern motorcycles, 600 of which are on display at any given time, and includes models from 1902 to present, from 200 manufacturers in 20 countries. It is considered the largest motorcycle museum in the world. It also houses the largest known collection of Lotus racecars.
If you haven’t already decided to put this track on your bucket list, you should. Just ask anyone from the four NASA regions that raced there in February. They’ll tell you. Just don’t go four off.