Robert 'Barky' Barkhimer was a popular racing driver and promoter. The Bay Cities Racing Association Midget Champion in 1945, he became the West Coast regional director of NASCAR and during the 1950s and 1960s he controlled most of the tracks in Washington, Oregon and California.
Born in Berkeley, California Robert Emery Barkhimer fell in love with racing in 1937 when as newly married 21 year old he went with his wife, Mollie, to the midget races in Emeryville, California. As the engines fired up he was hooked and set about becoming a driver.
After attempting to hire a car wihout any luck he was offered a proposition by a car owner named Delucci. He had sold a car and not been paid. He told Barky that if he could get the car back he could race it. He found it, in boxes, and with the help of a friend, put it back together.
They got Jimmy Aiten to drive it but in the third race the engine blew up and the car was returned to Delucci.
Bob then bought an an old midget with a Harley Davidson JD motorcycle engine. Jimmy continued to drive but at their second race in Vallejo, California, he took a ride in a better car leaving Bob to drive. Wearing a borowed American football helmet, he took to the track for the very first time. It took him a while to come to terms with racing but by 1940 he was proving competetive though he had to take time off in 1942 due to injury.
In 1945 he won the Bay Cities Racing Association Midget Championship. Another break due to injury came in 1947 and the following year he retired from driving to take over as the Business Manager for BCRA.
In 1949, Bob and his partner, Jerry Piper, founded the California Stock Car Racing Association and began promoting races at San Jose Speedway. Within a few years, he was promoting races at more than 20 tracks along the West Coast and Arizona. He and his wife formed their own promotions company, Bob Barkhimer Associates.
In the early 1950s, he met Bill France Sr., the man who a few years earlier had formed the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, and the two struck an agreement to bring NASCAR sanctioning out West. He promoted races at not only San Jose Speedway but at tracks in Stockton, Antioch, Watsonville, Petaluma and the Central Valley.
Over the years he also promoted car shows, boxing and wrestling matches and roller derby events in the Bay Area.
Shortly after his wife died in 1976, Mr. Barkhimer sold his businesses and retired. He spent his later years traveling, writing stories about the early years of racing, and sharing his racing knowledge and enthusiasm.