July 9, 2009
BARN RAT’S LAST RACE
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
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
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
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
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
after his heat win at
Hudson with the Devaney family.
Peter had a co-pilot in the main. (Bob Hayes Photography)