Mark Whitener celebrates his victory during Friday afternoon’s DIRTcar Pro Late Model event at Volusia Speedway Park. (Photo Jim Denhamer)
BARBERVILLE, Fla. — Less than 24 hours after sitting upside down in his super late mod, Mark Whitener emerged from his Pro Late Model DIRTcar with a straw hat on his head and a smile on his face.
The Middleburg, Fla. driver found the strength in his consistency and sheer will to claim the first DIRTcar Pro Late Model Sunshine National Championships win of the week on Friday night at Volusia Speedway Park – after the race was postponed from Thursday evening.
Whitener said he was in pain and had brake issues in the final half of the 25-lap race, but knew he had a strong new Savage chassis under him.
“I knew I had a really good hot rod,” Whitener said. “This is a new car for us. Thanks to Jason Welshan from Savage (chassis). It was scary in the Super last night. My hands hurt. I hurt all over…but being in the way of the victory for this Sunshine deal, that’s pretty much home for us. Just appreciate everyone putting on this show. Everyone’s doing the best they can.”
Shan Smith led the field to the initial green flag with Whitener in tow. Both men got ahead of the field at the start of the race, while Nevin Gainey moved from fifth to third on the first two laps.
Smith held solid lead control around the half-mile track until lap traffic became an obstacle. While attempting to pass a group of slower cars on the outside, Smith was pushed out of the groove into a dirty lane, losing his grip and allowing Whitener to squeeze under him. The two raced side by side for a straight before Whitener launched into the lead and never looked back.
“When I was in the lead and came into turn traffic I should have driven behind these guys but I was afraid that Mark (Whitener) would dive to the outside and go around me and I would get caught with my pants down. I just dive-bombed these guys around the outside and they kind of hung me up to dry while I lapped them up. That was the race.”
“Basically, if you come down from the bottom, you’re done. So, I want to thank all my guys for helping and supporting me. We break our butts like everyone here.
Whitener lost his rear brakes with 10 laps to go and had to readjust his approach at each corner but stuck to the bottom. Smith started shooting Whitener, getting close enough to grab his bumper with eight laps to go. However, he hit a rut in Turn 2 and fell back into the clutches of Cory Hedgecock in third.
Three laps later, disaster nearly hit Whitener as a car slowed to a stop in front of him heading into the pit area, forcing him to lock his brakes and straighten his car to avoid a collision . This allowed Smith and Hedgecock one last shot at Whitener.
Whitener was in another dimension, however, only needing a corner to distance himself from his hunters again.
He’s off to earn a much-needed victory in a double-day race around Volusia Speedway Park, where he’ll double-duty with the DIRTcar Pro Late Models and World of Outlaws Late Model Series.
“I would just like to thank everyone who is here,” Whitener said. “All these fans and everyone helping me on this car. Especially Jason Welshan at Savage Chassis. First night and this stuff was badass.
1. 5 Brand Whitener; 2. 32-Shan Smith; 3. 23-Cory Hedgecock; 4. 17-Nevin Gainey; 5. 05-David Bleacher; 6. 6-Harris Clay; 7. 66K-Dylan Knowles; 8. Faulk with 4 rye; 9. 66-Jody Knowles; 10. 22-Jeremy Steele; 11. 10-Chad Olsen; 12. 2-Trynt Lloyd; 13. 01G-Jason Garver; 14. 71-Bo Allen; 15. 28M-Sat March; 16. 66-JJake Knowles; 17. 2W-Justin Williams; 18. 17SSJR-Brenden Smith; 19. 127-Austin Yarbrough; 20. 45T-Tom Fiebelkorn; 21. 51-Mikey Koka; 22. 01-Jason Welsh; 23. 38-Garrett Mosley; 24. 25-Donnie Chappell; 25. 00S-Richie Stephens; 26. 14-Wil Herrington