By MIKE MALLETT
Billy Whittaker summed it up best when he said in the post-race press conference, “I’m still shocked.”
He never imaged that he’d be standing on the roof of his car in front of a packed house at the Eldora Speedway after picking up a feature win, but that was exactly was transpired on Wednesday night in the 20-lap Super DIRTcar Series All-Star Invitational event.
The trip didn’t start off on a high-note for the Central Square, N.Y., resident as he got a flat tire before on his tow vehicle before even getting out of the Empire State. Repairs were made and he eventually arrived at the place they call The World’s Greatest Dirt Track. It was the first time in his career he had even seen the place other than on television.
It’s not how you start, but how you finish. Upon exiting the track he’s got something that so many other drivers have dreamed about. That is, a win at Eldora Speedway.
“You know, I’ve never been here,” he said. “I’ve heard the rich history of Eldora. We were on the fence on whether we were going to come or not, just because of the time and money. I do this part-time for fun. My business, my family, that is my priority, but we decided to come down. The place is super cool. To stand out there in Victory Lane, in front of all these people, and then to have them embrace it. That is why we do this.”
Things were more difficult his first night out as he found himself in the consolation. He was quick to point out that he struggles in qualifying because he doesn’t have the same experiences other drivers on the tour have. It takes him some extra laps to get a feel for what he has to do to be fast.
He eventually scored a quiet 19th place finish in the opener, but much like he did the previous night in that consolation event, Whittaker got to the front and ran away. That consolation win helped him know he had a chance to possibly pull off the upset. He was good in clean air. Wednesday he found himself on the front row of the invitational by luck of the draw. He got the pole, clean air and the rest as they say, is history.
“Honestly I thought, I don’t think I can win this but I know I can finish in the top five and that would be cool,” he said after learning he would be on the pole. “Last night we started out front in the consi and drove away. We just put that car underneath, I like that car, and we’ll see what happens on the start. I found a pretty good line right away and I was just driving around.”
Whittaker was chased by two of the best in Brett Hearn and Billy Decker. They weren’t able to muster enough to challenge him for the win. He knew good cars were coming, but he had no idea what kind of lead he had or how good his car was. In the late stages the reality of it all started setting in which caused a little bit of the anxiousness in the driver.
“I didn’t know how many laps were left so the last three or four I started tightening up a little bit,” he said still smiling. “I was like, ‘holy sh*t’ where is everybody? What’s going on? How many laps are left? Is anybody coming? It was getting a little dusty because I was catching the cars in the back and they were dusting it up. I was like ‘awe man, what’s going to happen here.’ When I saw the double-checkered I went one more lap just to make sure. I couldn’t believe it. I don’t even know who was second. It’s just amazing.”
Whittaker had been out of racing all together for several years only recently returning to the Modified ranks in Central New York. He made sure to credit those that helped him get to the point he was at on Wednesday night.
“I took 13 years off from racing period,” cited Whittaker. “This is my third year back. I’m playing around, having some fun. It’s a blast to be in the position to run out of the LJL camp. I lease a car out of there. John (Wight) has been super great to me. Scott Jeffery puts it together. Larry (Wight) helps, Pat (ward) helps, it’s a good deal. Shocker!”
Shocking indeed, but there is no doubt when he pulled out of Eldora Speedway he was living up to his personal business Billy Whittaker’s Cars and Trux moniker as he was most definitely, ‘good to go!’