By the end of his first test...
By the end of his first test at Hickory, Whitley was turning some impressive laps.
Every racer I have talked to over the years has at some point mentioned a desire to try racing in another car or division. It's something that's simply part of a racer's DNA. A driver may have won a divisional title numerous times and wants a bigger challenge, or maybe it's the thirst for the unknown. In my case, it's a little of both. After a successful run in Legends Car racing, including a national championship, it's time to move on.
Whitley Motorsports is going Late Model racing.
Once in this division, it's expected that things will change. With all of these changes, of course, come even more challenges. As with any racing venture, you need a game plan. Often, all of the technology and info you have developed and learned will have to be put on the shelf. You are now starting over with a whole new set of variables. Just like before, you need to assemble the right people and equipment to get the job done. The purse may be bigger, but so is the cost.
Rob Sparkes of Hurricane Racing...
Rob Sparkes of Hurricane Racing offers a car for lease out of his shop in Concord, North Carolina.
After spending a lot of time thinking about the best way to get going, I wrote down a game plan. First, of course, you can't expect to be given a free pass by the winning teams. They will help, but only to an extent. This is totally understandable since their primary reward is fast cars and trophies.
The most important thing out of the box is-and has always been-seat time, and I found a team that will allow me to gain experience. Rob Sparkes from Hurricane Racing offers a car for lease out of his shop in Concord, North Carolina. I called and arranged to begin testing his Late Model to prepare for the move up in 2008.
I have known Rob for a few years from my time racing Legends Cars. Hurricane Racing also has driver and car programs for Legends all across the country. We decided to begin at 0.363-mile Hickory Motor Speedway, a well-known but difficult track here in the racing hotbed of North Carolina.
With a firm foundation developed...
With a firm foundation developed in Legends competition, Whitley felt comfortable in the Late Model.
This may seem obvious, but how well you adapt to a different car is dependent upon what you drove in the past. For the record, I will have to say the Legends Car was one heck of a learning tool. The horsepower-to-weight ratio in a Legends Car is significant, and the tire on a Legends Car is a street radial. This makes for one tough race car to handle, so I felt very prepared to start learning the ropes in stock cars. Going in, I was unaware that a stock car has power steering-and I felt like I was driving the family sedan.
Driving the car and driving the car fast, however, is a whole different deal. To help with the learning curve, we used a new onboard telemetry system to guide us through what was going on from the driver's input to the car.
Through Tim Anderson of Racepak Data Systems, we were able to obtain a Racepak Data System G2X. I was amazed at how easy it was to operate the system, and the installation was completed in a matter of minutes. That's a real plus because if your data system is not user-friendly, you will spend more time getting it operational than testing.
Ganassi Racing's David Stremme...
Ganassi Racing's David Stremme was at Hickory assisting another driver but offered advice to Whitley. It was unexpected and very much appreciated.
To aid with the data system, Tim was on site at Hickory for the first test. After my first run, he showed me what I was doing with the car and how I was doing it. Knowing what to do with a race car is just as important as driving hard. The amount of car control you have doesn't matter if you can't drive the car the way it needs to be driven to reflect a good time on the clock. That is where data comes in.
After the initial 20-lap run, the Racepak had enough data for me to start referencing the information. I was able to see a track map with my driving highlighted. I was also able to see my exact input to the car. It showed the exact braking pressure I applied to the car. That combined with the throttle input to allow me to see the consistency of my physical input to the pedals. Information like this is invaluable when it comes to getting faster.