New Jersey Driver is Closer to the Front Than Ever Before
Three races into the 2005 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season, things weren’t looking too good for Steve Whitt.
The New Jersey short tracker started out the year with a 22nd-place finish at Thompson International Speedway’s (CT) Icebreaker and then did not qualify for the next three events on the schedule – two [including one delayed until July when it rained after qualifying] at Stafford Motor Speedway (CT) and another at Riverhead Raceway (NY).
The situation looked pretty bleak, in fact. But Whitt was not ready to give up.
So in the next race on the schedule, Whitt went out and did something that he had never done before on the Modified Tour. He finished in the top five. Whitt was
able to turn that corner in late June at Waterford Speedbowl when he started third and finished fifth.
But that wasn’t a fluke. His next start at Jennerstown resulted in a finish of 18th, but after that was fifth on the mile at New Hampshire International Speedway and fourth at Beech Ridge.
The reason for the boost in performance was simple. Whitt just needed the right tools to get his job behind the wheel done.
“My car owner [Richard Greenfield] hired a couple of people full time and that brought some more organization to us. Now we are working as a full team. This is tough when we work a 40 or 50 hour a week job and then work on the cars.”
Once the results started coming in, that gave Whitt and
Whitt now sits 14th in the point standings, entering the final two events of the season. That is a marked improvement throughout the course of the year, especially considering the hole that Whitt was in after missing three races early on.
Now, the sky is the limit.
“We take it one race at a time, but we’re definitely building momentum. We have the best car owner going and now we’ve put together a complete team. It’s really working out well.”
the team a whole new outlook. That made the second good run come a lot easier than the first one.
“With these good runs, it definitely builds confidence,” said Whitt. “I was always joking with everyone and I said that if they gave me a good job, I could race with these guys. Well, they’ve given me good cars and we’ve been there every week. As long as I keep the wheels on, they are going to be in the top 10.”
Whitt (#06) races in a pack with Kevin Goodale (#58) and Doug Coby (#77) on his way to a career best finish of fourth at Beech Ridge. (Howie Hodge Photo)
Whitt's #06 at Martinsville. (Howie Hodge Photo)
Whitt buckling in. (51 Photo)
Showing the he belongs near the front of the field has also helped change the opinion that other drivers have of Whitt. He’s moving on up in that category.
“I’ve said from the start that you have to race with them before they will ever let you beat them. The guys have been doing it a long time and I’m basically trying to just earn their respect. I’m the new guy running in the top five and top 10 and I feel like the spotlight is on me, but we keep chipping away and getting better every week.”
“It’s better off that way, if I can keep racing with them and earning their respect, before you know it, I’ll be one of them. You have to earn their respect.”
Whitt is starting to notice that on the track.
“This tour more than anywhere I’ve ever raced, there is a certain clique in the top five. I proved it at Loudon because I could hardly get any help. Every time I looked up, they were going by me and not with me. I had Ricky Fuller help me and I helped him. We kept pushing each other and it worked out for both of us.”
Considering the direction where Whitt’s career is going, there will be plenty of more days where he’ll be working with Fuller and other drivers to collect strong finishes.
Jimmy Blewett checks in with Whitt before qualifying earlier this year at Riverhead.