By Clayton Johns (@cjohnsmedia)

The Inaugural OSCAAR Modified season saw an interesting group of modified newcomers compete for a rookie-of-the year title. Among them was former Ontario Legends and Hurricane Midgets driver Matt Barton. Competing in the series’ first ever season, Barton ran a partial schedule and is preparing for additional appearances in 2013.

Barton’s family-owned and sponsored #2 MDB Racecars Modified has undergone significant changes over the winter in hopes of getting the car in to the top-five on a weekly basis.

“I’ve built a new body for it,” said Barton. “We fixed the rear-end after it got bent at Autumn Colours. The front suspension except for one control arm is all different.”

The New Hamburg, Ont. native has also upgraded his engine package to a built motor from the previous Chevrolet 604 crate motor. After a test session last weekend at Delaware Speedway, he feels the car will pick up some time in 2013.

“Judging by the way it drove the other day, it does make more power now,” said Barton. “Our lap times were about the same, but we were on older tires. The track was really green (as well).”

Barton, nicknamed ‘scrappy’ by friends, competed in six races throughout his rookie season, and is already planning to add to that total in 2013. The 25 year-old pilot has entered his name for the first six races of 2013 and will go on a week-to-week basis for each event afterwards.

Just 95 kilometres from home, Barton is excited for a trip to Delaware. Barton feels he learned a lot in his two trips to the London-area half-mile last season and is better prepared for the June 21 date.

“I definitely learned the place is as tough to get around as people say it is,” explained Barton. “You can’t overdrive the corners. You can if you have enough brakes and tires to do that, but I don’t know if we do.”

Barton was in contention for top-five finishes in both 2012 events at Delaware, but got tangled in a pair of incidents which forced a finish outside the top-ten.

“We ran well there last year. We just didn’t get the finishes we wanted,” he said. “I like it because it’s close to home and friends and family can come out.”

Barton did come away with two top-five finishes in his rookie season. The first came in the second race of the year at Barrie Speedway, and in early July at Sauble Speedway. As a result, Barton is looking forward to returning to those facilities.

“Sauble, we have a bunch of friends up there. Barrie, for some reason I seem to like that place. I ran well there last year until my lack of talent ran out of tires,” laughed Barton.

Tire management will be a primary focus for Barton and his crew in 2013. The team felt better use of its tire inventory would have resulted in more finishes inside the top-five, and may have gotten them on to the podium.

“The way we handle our tires, as far as keeping our tire inventory fresher and in terms of not burning them up so quickly (needs to improve),” said Barton. “I have to do a better job behind the wheel.”

Regardless, Barton felt he made significant progress over the course of his inaugural campaign and the recent changes seem to have paid off early on.

“I was really pleased with our setup by the time we got to Autumn Colours,” said Barton. “The testing session went really well (at Delaware).”

Barton tends not to make any drastic changes to the car on a weekly basis, choosing to focus on his style behind the wheel as the biggest change from track-to-track.

After experiencing success in the top-five last season, Barton is aiming to be there more often in 2013, with hopes of sneaking on to the podium as well.

“We hate to carry expectations because then you go home disappointed” explained Barton, “but in the back of my mind, the expectation is to run top-five every night and the goal is to finish on the podium. I just want to do it once.”

Barton will have his first chance to step on to the podium in 2013 on May 19, when the OSCAAR Modified tour kicks off at Sunset Speedway.