Victory and Vows at Pikes Peak | God's World News

Victory and Vows at Pikes Peak

  • T1 Mary beside car Matt Barker
    Mary Barker stands by the Subaru she and her now husband, Kendall Samuel, built. (Courtesy of Matt Barker)
  • T2 Kendall Mary cars Matt Barker 3
    Kendall Samuel and Mary Barker pose by their race cars after finishing Pikes Peak and exchanging vows. (Courtesy of Matt Barker)
  • T3 Kendall Mary wed Matt Barker 3
    Mary Barker and Kendall Samuel married at the top of Pikes Peak after both reaching the summit on June 23, 2024. (Courtesy of Matt Barker)
  • T1 Mary beside car Matt Barker
  • T2 Kendall Mary cars Matt Barker 3
  • T3 Kendall Mary wed Matt Barker 3


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It wasn’t just a drive-thru wedding.

Mary Barker and her fiancé, Kendall Samuel, donned wedding-themed race suits on June 23. The mechanics and racers sped the Subarus they built around 156 sharp turns along a 12.42-mile stretch to reach the top of Pikes Peak in Colorado. In spite of an overheating engine, Samuel completed his run and waited for Barker to reach the top. Shortly after she zipped across the finish line, the two exchanged vows in front of other cheering racers.

Pikes Peak is the second-oldest car race in America, and it’s ultimately a race against the mountain. Twelve drivers, including some Pikes Peak veterans with well-funded teams, were unable to reach the top due to mechanical failures. The groom came close to being one of them.

During Samuel’s run, Barker noted that they’d had to swap the engine in his car twice that week. Her vehicle had a few problems as well. A dedicated volunteer crew pushed through the challenges. Most of the members are long-time racing friends. They had to pull almost two all-nighters to get Samuel’s car roadworthy.

The crew came away from the wedding ceremony exhausted and elated. The only day Pikes Peak is closed to tourists is on race day. The mountain opens at 9:00 a.m. otherwise. That means every racer who wants a practice run must schedule it in pre-dawn hours. Barker and Samuel’s team set alarms for 1:00 a.m. earlier in the week for their trials.

The altitude change from 9,390 feet at the start to 14,115 feet at the finish is hard on drivers and their cars. Drivers have to self-administer oxygen. Cars easily break down due to overheating.

While drivers aspire to achieve the best time up the mountain, there is a camaraderie amongst them. “It’s not a cutthroat environment,” Mary’s dad, Matt Barker, says. “Everyone is for each other.” Another racing team had an auto shop and made it available to Barker and Samuel all week at no charge.

On Monday, Barker received the Alcon Brakes No Holding Back Award. It goes to the competitor who demonstrates “outstanding perseverance and determination.” She received a $12,000 product voucher, which will go towards auto parts. That’s a practical wedding gift for the bride, who builds engines and cars with Samuel for their company, Mechanical Advantage Racing.

Barker was diagnosed with stage two Hodgkin lymphoma last September. She went through six months of chemotherapy and radiation and was declared in remission in May. Before making the trek up the mountain, Barker said, “If I can make it over cancer, I think I can make it over this mountain.”

And she did. Barker finished the climb up Pikes Peak in 12 minutes, 20 seconds. Samuel completed his run in 11 minutes, 46 seconds. “The obstacles are a challenge, but how you face them is what matters,” Barker says. “We just put our heads down and pushed onwards with the mentality of ‘there is no option to give up.’”

by Amy Auten in Asheville, North Carolina