Eldora Speedway has become known as a memory maker for drivers, mechanics, and fans over its long history; Wednesday night became a night that New York State veteran driver Billy Whittaker would never forget. After a so, so start to the night, Whittaker took advantage of an inversion which promoted him to pole position for the Super DIRTcar Series All-Star Showdown, a 20 lap contest of some of the best Big-Block Modified drivers.
Despite uncertainty prerace that he could maintain the lead all race long, Whittaker proved himself wrong, taking advantage of clean air and a clean race to win on his first ever trip to the ‘Big E’.
“I’ve never been here in the rich history of Eldora, we were on the fence of whether we were going to come or not just because it’s time and money, I do this part-time for fun. My business and my family is my priority, but we decided to come down,” Whittaker told the media after the race. “This place is super cool, to stand out there in that victory lane with all of these people and then to have the people embrace it, this is why we do this, right?”
Whittaker, a former asphalt Modified driver who took many years off, took plenty of time to embrace the moment, standing on the roof of the No. 109 Big-Block as the capacity crowd gave an equally long cheer. He did not want to come down.
“No! No, because you never know when the next time is going to be right? This Series is so tough, so competitive, combined years I’m racing against is just insane. I run Saturday nights at Fulton (Speedway in NY) and this has kind of been my first time on the Series, it’s a tough deal going to all these different racetracks and having to practice and time trial on four laps to set your night, that’s the hard part.”
Whittaker finished seventh in his heat race to start the night, but a draw for an inversion was what promoted him to pole position. Before the race, he wasn’t sure he could keep it out in front.
“Honestly I’m like, ‘Wow, I don’t think I can win this, but I know I can finish in the top five.’ That was my goal. Last night started out in the clean air in the consi and drove away. So I put the car back underneath me and I like that car. See what happens on the start and I found a pretty good line right away and I was just driving around. It was good, I didn’t see anybody, I didn’t hear anybody, I watched for some signs, nobody was on me, I was just cruising. I didn’t know how many laps were left, so last three or four laps I started tightening up a little and I’m like, ‘Holy **** where is everybody? What’s going on?’ It was dusty since I was catching cars in the back. Then I saw the double checkers and I went one more lap just to make sure. Then there it was, I couldn’t believe it.”
Whittaker finished by saying that while it was a non-points sprint race, it’s in no doubt a career highlight.
“I think so as far as wins, I’ve had some pretty cool ones at Oswego Speedway; Spencer Speedway we were champions. USAC and ASA I never won there. It’s been a long darn time, I took 13 years off of racing period, this is my third year back playing around having fun, it’s a blast to be in position to run where I am. I’m shocked.”
Brett Hearn moved up rapidly to second place in the first half of the race and was closing on Whittaker. Hearn would not get a chance to challenge for the lead as he had to deal with a hard charging Billy Decker. Hearn managed to hold off Decker for the runner-up spot. Max McLaughlin and Mat Williamson rounded out the top five.
The Super DIRTcar Series closes out the Ohio road trip Thursday night at Sharon Speedway. Speed51.com will be there with Trackside Now coverage.
Get a full race recap at Trackside Now presented by JRi Shocks. (Click Here)
-By Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com CT, MA & Long Island Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com