While for many years the national racing audience has had “D.W.” to cheer for in the form of retired NASCAR Cup champion and current television broadcaster Darrell Waltrip, the Western New York racing community has had its own “D.W” to follow over the last decade, that in the form of Orchard Park-based stock car racer Dave “Old D.W.” Whittaker.
When Holland Motorsports Complex opens its 55th season on May 24, Whittaker will be there to challenge the best of the Southern Erie County high-banked oval’s racers and not just in one division as in the past but now in two, the NASCAR Late Models and the NASCAR Pro Modifieds.
Last season Whittaker drove in the NASCAR Late Models at Holland, competing with a 604 Chevy engine, while the other drivers in the class raced the 602 Chevy-style power plant.
“I had a 604 engine from when I ran Late Models at Lake Erie Speedway and other tracks like Clearfield,” in Pennsylvania, “a couple of years ago,” said Whittaker, who turns 40 on May 28. “For the 2013 season, Holland invited drivers to use the 604 engines in the NASCAR Late Models if they wished to compete against the 602 engine that was currently then being used in the class.
“I was the only driver who came out there and raced a 604 against the 602s. Basically I had to use a NASCAR-type restrictor plate to restrict some horsepower and had to add some weight to the car to try to keep the competition equal. I ended up still being faster in the straightaway but I had difficulty getting the car to corner right.”
Whittaker says that on average a 604 engine cost around $2,000 more per engine than a 602. For 2014, the team’s 604 engine will be utilized by Whittaker in competition but will be switched to an additional car that his team is adding to its stable, the NASCAR Pro Modified. This development will find Whittaker driving in two different classes this season at Holland.
“I was sitting around one day and got a call from Paul Graff,” a fellow car owner, “and he told me that he had a NASCAR Pro Modified car that he was selling so my car owner Glenn Absolom, who owns my Late Model, also got the Pro Modified and now I will be driving both,” Whittaker said.
With the 604 engine that was formerly used in the NASCAR Late Model now bolted into the engine compartment of the NASCAR Pro Modified, the team will utilize a 602 engine they already own in the NASCAR Late Model this season.
“I’m not giving up on the Late Models as I still love them, but the Pro Modified will be a fun challenge too,” Whittaker said.
Whittaker began his career in the Late Models in 2009 after running in the Cup Lite Series division for a few seasons where he claimed the Cup Lite Series season championship in 2005.
“After I won the Cup Lites title I ran in that class for another few seasons before joining the LAMOT Late Models at Holland,” Whittaker said, referring to the Late Model of Tomorrow cars. “At the time, we had three Cup Lite cars, but the Cup Lite Series was dying off and we sold them all to get one Howe chassis Late Model to race with,” recalled Whittaker.
“It seemed the way to go at the time. The 602 engine, standard shocks and Goodyear tires seemed the way to go back then with the Late Model. I was the LAMOT Rookie of the Year in 2009 and ended up winning three career LAMOT races over the next few years.”
For this season, along with the help of Absolom, the team will again rely on Whittaker’s longtime crew chief Darin Spalti as well as financial help from their sponsors.
“I don’t know quite what to expect for this season with running two cars, but I know that without the dedication of Glenn and Darin I couldn’t have done this for as long as I have with one car, let alone two,” Whittaker said.
Before the season opener, Holland will host two preseason practices, on Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. and next Thursday from 5 p.m. until dusk.
Major area racing news broke Tuesday when it was announced that the Stateline Speedway in Busti will indeed open for the 2014 season, under a new owner.
Stateline was in danger of not opening this season due to legal issues involving prior ownership. Stateline was opened in 1956 and has run each year since.
The track was purchased in 1984 by the late Fran Seamens, who died in 2010. The track continued to be run by Seamens’ wife, Jenifer, since his death. The track was recently purchased by Bill Catania Jr., a Western New York native who now resides in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Stateline will return to competition July 5 and run each Saturday at 7 p.m. thereafter through October. The same weekly divisions that have been run there the last several seasons will return, including the Super Late Models, E-Mods, Crate Late Models, Limited Late Models, Super Sportsman, Street Stocks and Challenger Mini Stocks.
Stateline will host a special practice night June 26 in which Catania will pay off the 2013 championship point money to the applicable drivers. Last year’s point fund was left unpaid by the previous ownership.
Alden’s Scott Kreutter will once again campaign a winged Sprint Car with the Patriot Sprint Tour this season, where he was champion in 2012 and placed second in the PST points standings a year ago. Kreutter is hosting a fundraiser for his team at 7 p.m. Sunday at the Pole Position Raceway, a one-quarter-mile road course located in the Walden Galleria Mall. Tickets are $20 presale and $25 at the door and include 14 laps of racing, food, drinks and a drink voucher for Bar Louie in the mall. Call 474-2984 for tickets.