Racing Commentary

Email Lew at lewboyd@coastal181.com

"Barn Rat"(Dick Berggren Photo)

July 9, 2009


Robert A. Devaney, 67, of Windham, NH, passed away on June 23 following a long struggle with cancer. The obituary described him as a “jack of all trades, loving husband and father, self-employed mechanic and oil burner repairman, firefighter – and a race car driving enthusiast.” Now there is an understatement.

Bob Devaney, or “Barn Rat” as he was known to a generation of race fans, was one of the most outrageous, colorful, joyful, and likeable figures ever in New England racing.
Barn Rat descended on arenas of the sixties such as Pines Speedway in Groveland, MA, and Hudson and Dover, NH, in a series of blue-colored Chrysler “bomber” sedans. All were numbered 222; all of them won; all of them flipped; all of them were battered to rippled oblivion.

Barn Rat was an instant crowd favorite, given to non-stop antics, completely unjoined from pretense and convention. He was beyond hippie. His familiar Ex-Lax cap topped an enormously robust afro, while a shaggy black beard cascaded south of the chin strap on his helmet.

By the late sixties, Barn Rat joined the New England Supermodified Association and built a typically distinctive super that turned up alternatively as orange or lime green. The car was a testimony to low buck, and Barn Rat had trouble winning. Finally, he went to the officials and begged them to let him start on the pole – at any cost. In the end, the NESMRA guys agreed: Barn Rat could have his pole shot, but, if he won, he would have to consent to a haircut.

Well, son of a gun, he won it. The next week a barber showed up at Star Speedway, replete with razor, sharpening belt, shaving foam, and a chair. He sculpted Barn Rat back to size in front of a highly engaged grandstand. The not inconsiderable locks were then put into baggies and were offered up for $5 each in the concession stands to support the Cancer Society. They sold out.

In the 1980s, Barn Rat, his helmet now on the hook, dreamed up and organized a V-6 supermodified division, popular in Northern New England for a full decade. He was an energetic manager of the series and in so doing he essentially launched some great racing careers, such as Eddie Witkum Jr., Chris Perley, Ted Parker, and Eddie O’Brien.

Two months ago a group of friends, including Barn Rat, met for a luncheon to honor legendary driver Pete Fiandaca, who was starting his 43rd season behind the wheel, despite some serious health problems. Barn Rat was the life of the party, insisting that he was just fine, even though he had had a bout with throat cancer the year before.
Everyone was shocked by the news of his death, certainly including Fiandaca. At a special outlaw late model race at Hudson last Sunday (July 5), Fiandaca re-numbered his car as #222 to honor his friend. He won his heat handily.

Just before the main event, Barn Rat’s daughters, Heidi and Kelly, approached Peter with a small package and asked him to take it with him in the car for the feature. It was their father’s ashes.

Peter and Barn Rat ran fourth.

© 2009 Lew Boyd, Coastal 181

Peter Fiandaca after his heat win at Hudson with the Devaney family. 
Peter had a co-pilot in the main.   (Bob Hayes Photography)

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.: Previous Tearoffs :.

6/18/09 - Catching Up With Brad Doty

5/20/09 - Big Boys in The Attic  - rare photos of legends

5/6/09 - Back Up In The Attic - more rare photos

4/22/09 - The Son of Hard Luck - accessible racing
experience for the handicapped

4/3/09 - Racin' In The Attic - Gordon Ross photo collection

3/18/09 - About That Mike Spaulding

3/3/09 - Dick Berggren's First Win - (you had to be there!)

2/11/09 - Peter at the Park - Peter Fiandaca at Riverside Park

1/30/09 - Steve - Steve Arpin

1/4/09 - Racer Speak -cool quotations

12/16/08 - Wimble Power, Will Power - Bill Wimble

11/24/08 - Remembering Chuck Amati - by Joyce Standridge

11/11/08 - That Rick Ferkel

10/24/08 - Beyond Bionic - Bentley Warren

10/6/08 - Fifty Second Classic - Skip and Lois Matczak

9/20/08 - Joey's Dad - Tom Logano

9/1/08 - One Night at The Park - the death of Les Ley

8/20/08 - Transitional Technology - early supermodifieds

8/6/08 - Wallace on Wednesdays - dirt trackin’ Kenny

7/19/08 - Star(ter) of the Show - importance of good flaggers

7/7/08 - McUnderdog - Eddie MacDonald

6/18/08 - The Night Buzz Was Worried - Buzz Rose

6/5/08 - John Richards - Boomer Role Model

5/20/08 - The Spirit of a Racer - the late Al Powell

5/1/08 - Bobby's Blues - Bobby Santos III

4/15/08 - Thinking About Rene Charland

3/26/08 - Carl and Corey - Carl Edwards and Corey Dripps

3/4/08 - A Cool Track with Cool Racers - West Liberty, Iowa

2/14/08 - Doug Wolfgang

1/25/08 - Frankie Schneider

1/7/08 - When Drivers Can't See - cockpit vision

12/21/07 - When Starters Couldn't See - flagstand vision

12/1/07 - Ride Along with Erica Santos - in-car camera midget win

11/15/07 - Tough Drivers

11/1/07 - Cockpit Safety

10/15/07 - That First Race

10/1/07 - Racing Nicknames

9/15/07 - Too Many Officials

9/1/07 - The Look of a Real Driver

8/15/07 - Being Dale Junior

8/1/07 - Armond Holley

7/15/07  -  Red Farmer

© 2009 Lew Boyd, Coastal 181