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Whitener Wheels New Savage to Volusia Victory

Whitener Wheels New Savage to Volusia Victory

BARBERVILLE, Fla. (Jan. 21) — Mark Whitener of Middleburg, Fla., kicked off the third edition of the DIRTcar Racing-sanctioned Sunshine Nationals with a $1,500 victory in a 25-lap event Friday afternoon at the half-mile oval, wheeling a brand new Savage Chassis entry to the checkered flag in the opening event of a planned three-day race weekend that also awarded points toward the Crate Racin’ USA Winter Shootout Series championship.

It happened a day later than planned after a late night and a rough track surface led to a postponement of the main event until the next day. Whitener, before the rain hit and while competing in a Morton Buildings World of Outlaws Late Model Series heat race the previous night, flipped twice in his Augie Burttram-fielded Super Late Model ride, severely bruising both wrists and leaving him sore from the violent rollover wreck.

Those complications were increased by a track surface that was admittedly less than stellar, after new clay was added a week or so prior to the opening event. The new dirt didn’t have time to settle and pack properly, creating a difficult track prep scenario and resulting in deep ruts and bumps that routinely sent cars airborne during their high-speed trips around the oval.

Undaunted, Whitener climbed aboard his Chevrolet Performance Circle Track Engine-powered Savage Chassis machine less than a dozen hours later, and grimaced through pain to lead the final 16 circuits en route to a victory in the car’s maiden voyage. The duo worked a deal late in the 2021 season for Whitener to wheel one of the company’s cars for Welshan during the 2022 campaign, and the pairing clicked from the start as Whitener led Shan Smith, Cory Hedgecock, Nevin Gainey and David Whitener across the stripe at the D-shaped facility.

“Track conditions were obviously not the best tonight and that usually isn’t a problem here, but everybody out there has gotta race on it,” Whitener said after securing the $1,500 victory. “Both of my wrists are sore—my right hand is all black and blue from the WoO wreck last night— and I’ve got some ribs that are pretty sore. I’m probably gonna go home and sit on the couch, because I’m sure I’m going to be hurting a lot more. Oh, I was feeling it out there and especially with a rough track surface, but the adrenaline got me through it.”

Whitener started from the outside of the front row next to Shan Smith, and watched as the Dade City, Fla., driver took command at the start and paced the opening nine circuits. Smith got bottled up in lapped traffic and made a move to the outside, and Whitener pounced on the low side to grab the lead for good in the 25-lapper. He led the final 16 tours of the D-shaped track in a race held during the daylight hours after the previous night’s inclement weather.

“I should have just stayed in line, but I got behind a slower car and tried to go outside,” Smith said. “That was not the right thing to do. The bottom was the place to be, but I didn’t wanna get caught with my pants down either, and watch him drive around the outside of me.”

A Savage Pairing Clicks
Whitener was joined in the winner’s circle by Welshan, who was thrilled to see the immediate success that Whitener enjoyed by association with his burgeoning chassis business. A long-time racer, Welshan’s dream to build Savage Chassis into a regional powerhouse in the sport has been taking shape significantly in recent years.

“For me, it’s better than a win to see someone else drive one of our cars to victory,” Welshan said. “I’m probably not gonna drive these race cars forever, but I want to stay in the sport and building these cars—that’s my future. We are already blessed as a company to work with some of the best drivers in the sport, but we’re not a big chassis manufacturer…yet. Yet can be a big word, but we’re working hard every day to make this deal succeed.”

Welshan is one who’s never been afraid of hard work, which puts him in the same league as a hard-working, blue-collar competitor like Whitener. Both are sweat equity-type competitors who have worked their way up from the bottom. The pairing starts with the right ingredients, but time will tell the whole tale.

“I drove 2,500 miles last week before we came down here, picking up and delivering cars and equipment,” Welshan said. “That included almost 1,000 miles the day before we left. I haven’t slept much, and we didn’t have the speed I’d like to have had in our own car down here. You do what you have to do, but seeing our equipment win races makes me proud, and having accomplished drivers like Mark [Whitener] put trust in our cars and our company makes us feel good about what we’re doing.

“He came up from Florida to visit us, checked our place out, and he was all in from there,” Whitener continued. “We set fast time this weekend with 82 cars here, and won the race. We’re fortunate to have drivers like him interested in our cars, and people who work with us that are willing to put in the hours. Some of them are volunteers, and we’ve been fortunate to have a lot of people helping who just want to see this deal succeed. We’ve sure had a lot of support for this crazy dream of mine, and it means a lot to me.”

A Deal Comes Together
The pair started conversations last season about placing Whitener into one of the company’s cars, and a basic plan was developed. It reached fruition over the winter, and blossomed long before spring considering the immediate success in their first race together.

“It was late last year when we started talking, and he [Welshan] told me at the time he needed me in one of his cars,” Whitener said. “We were able to work out a deal where it was going to be a good situation for both of us over the longer term, and it was an awesome car right out of the gate. Dealing with him has been awesome, and he’s right there with whatever we’ve needed. He’s just an easy-going ole’ country boy, and I believe we’ve put something together that will benefit both of us. He’s trying to sell cars and we’re trying to win races, and I think we can help each other’s goals. I’m happy to go out there in one of his cars for the first time to get one for him, and also for us.”

So far, so good. Whitener battled difficult track conditions that caused the postponement on the opening night of the series, setting fast time in his brand new car. He then negotiated a still-rugged surface en route to his first win of the season on the Adam Stewart-managed miniseries, which joined with DIRTcar Racing’s Pro Late Model division for the third year in a row, pulling an eye-opening 82 entries to the three-race weekend.

Schedules and Sponsors
Unfortunately, two of the three events were ultimately postponed by inclement weather, and series officials plan a makeup date on Feb. 7 in conjunction with the Florida Winternationals at the half-mile oval. That will follow a three-day Winter Shootout Series engagement slated Feb. 3-5 at East Bay Raceway Park in Gibsonton, Fla., where Crate Racin’ USA’s Late Model Sportsman division will also be on the card each night.

Additionally, a date has been added to the schedule March 5, where the traditional Tuckassee Toilet Bowl Classic weekend at Clarksville (Tenn.) Speedway will now feature a Crate Racin’ USA Winter Shootout Series event that pays $3,000 to the winner. That will now be the championship-deciding contest for the annual miniseries.

Whitener’s winning machine was powered by a H&R Racing Engine with sponsorship from Baker Farms, Boswell Oil, DT Welding, Top Knotch Custom Graphics and VP Racing Lubricants.

About Crate Racin’ USA
The economical Chevrolet Performance 602 and 604 Circle Track Engine is utilized by competitors in the various divisions presented by Crate Racin’ USA. It’s in stock and available for free, next-day delivery from Newsome Raceway Parts in Hartsville, S.C.

Each engine is built and sealed at the factory to prevent any expensive modifications. To place an order, call 1-877-497-3624.
For more information and rules, visit the organization’s website at www.crateracinusa.com, or follow our extensive social media programs on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Newsome Raceway Parts, a division of Raceway Chevrolet in Hartsville, S.C., is the title sponsor of Crate Racin’ USA. E-Z-GO Golf Carts is the title sponsor of the newly-established E-Z-GO $100,000+ Challenge.

Chevrolet Performance is an official sponsor of the organization, along with Advanced Laser & Machine, Cruise with the Champions, Hoosier Racing Tire, KRC Power Steering, Knowles Race Parts and Bodies, My Race Pass, VP Racing Fuels and Lubricants and Willy’s Carburetors.

Official chassis sponsors include Warrior Race Cars, Rocket Chassis and CVR Race Cars.

Sunshine Nationals (Race #1): 1. Mark Whitener, 2. Shan Smith, 3. Cory Hedgecock, 4. Nevin Gainey, 5. David Whitener, 6. Clay Harris, 7. Dylan Knowles, 8. Rye Faulk, 9. Jody Knowles, 10. Jeremy Steele, 11. Chad Olsen, 12. Trynt Lloyd, 13. Jason Garver, 14. Bo Allen, 15. Sam Mars, 16. Jake Knowles, 17. Justin Williams, 18. Brenden Smith, 19. Austin Yarbrough, 20. Tom Fiebelkorn, 21. Mikey Kopka, 22. Jason Welshan, 23. Garrett Mosley, 24. Donnie Chappell, 25. Richie Stephens, 26. Wil Herrington.

Winter Series Shootout (current points): 1. Cory Hedgecock, 194 points; 2. Jody Knowles, 174; 3. Jake Knowles, 164; 4. Jason Welshan, 140; 5. Jamie Burford, 124; 6. Rodgerick Dykes, 7. Cody Ballard, 112; 8. Tim Clark, 104; 9. Mark Whitener, 100; 10. Shan Smith, 96; 11. Josh Adkins, 94; 12. Nevin Gainey, 92; 13. (tie) Austin Horton, David Whitener and Michael Page, 90; 16. (tie) Booger Brooks and Clay Harris, 88; 18. Ty Giles, 86; 19. Dylan Knowles, 86; 20. Rye Faulk, 84.

Entries: 82
Boyd-Bilt Fabrication Fast Qualifier: Mark Whitener, 17.795 seconds
Lap leaders: Shan Smith 1-9, Mark Whitener 10-25.
Cautions: 1
KRC Power Steering Heat winners: Wil Herrington, Jody Knowles, Mark Whitener, Shan Smith, Nevin Gainey, Cory Hedgecock.
KRC Power Steering B-main winners: Tom Fiebelkorn, Bo Allen, Justin Williams.