Gainesville: Mark Whisnant Gatornational preview

RW Performance Pro Stock Chevy Cavalier Mark Whisnant - Driver Reid Whisnant - Owner For Whisnant Pro Stock Racing Is A Family Tradition GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Since Mark Whisnant was a little boy he has had a dream. Mark grew up watching his ...

RW Performance Pro Stock Chevy Cavalier
Mark Whisnant - Driver
Reid Whisnant - Owner

For Whisnant Pro Stock Racing Is A Family Tradition

GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Since Mark Whisnant was a little boy he has had a dream. Mark grew up watching his father, Reid Whisnant, race. Since then it has been Whisnant's dream to following in his father's footsteps and race a Pro Stock car. This weekend at the 33rd Annual Mac Tools Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla., Mark's childhood dream will become a reality when he assumes the drivers seat in the RW Performance Pro Stock Chevy Caviler.

"For as long as I can remember, all I have ever want to do was be like my Dad," said Whisnant of Stockbridge, Ga. "I wanted to be like him in every way, but I especially wanted to be able to drive like him. Growing up I watched him race Pro Stock, and always dreamed of one day taking over the driver's seat. This weekend that dream will finally come true."

For nearly 20 years Reid Whisnant raced a Pro Stock Chrysler Hemi throughout the Southeast. During the seventies and the eighties, he was a formidable competitor on the legendary southeastern match race circuit, while also competing in both NHRA and IHRA. Reid can be credited with two NHRA division titles and numerous wins during his career.

During his racing career Reid Whisnant sons: Danny, Terry, and Mark literally grew up at the racetrack. The boys would travel with their father whenever possible and came to think of the drag strip as their second home.

When Mark was old enough he became a regular crewmember on Reid's team. As crewmember, Mark learned all aspects Pro Stock racing. But with every pass that Reid made down the quarter mile drag strip, Mark's dream of one day taking over the driver's seat grew.

In 1990 Reid Whisnant retired from full time drag racing competition, and turned his attention to his rapidly growing plumbing business. The elder Whisnant may have retired but was never far away from the sport he and his family loved.

In 1998 the Whisnant name returned to the drag strip. It was in that year that Reid and Mark came together to revive the RW Performance race team. Only this time it would be Mark who would be in the driver's seat. With the team put back together the Whisnants formulated a plan that would eventually place Mark in a Pro Stock car.

The first car that RW Performance fielded was Chevrolet Baretta. Mark raced the Baretta in the Super Comp and Super Gas class. In only his second outing with the Baretta, Whisnant earned his first National event Super Gas title at the Spring Nationals in Houston, TX. Whisnant continued the race the Baretta throughout the 1998 season.

The next year, 1999, Whisnant moved up to Pro Stock Truck. During his three years in Pro Stock Truck, Mark would consistently maintained a top 20 spot in points. His best finish in Pro Stock Truck was a runner-up at the 2001 Pontiac Excitement Nationals in Columbus, Ohio. Whisnant feels that racing Pro Stock Truck was instrumental in fine-tuning his driving skills in preparation for making his move to Pro Stock.

"We had a plan from day one," explained Whisnant. "From the very start our plan was to take this in steps. My Dad and I both agreed that a gradual progression of speed would make me a better driver. This also gave us a chance to get our act as a team together before turning to Pro Stock. The Super Gas car gave me the seat time I needed, and my first taste of victory. The competition in Pro Stock Truck was furious. Racing the truck helped me get very comfortable with shifting and with the speed. It also gave me a glimpse of the level of competition I could expect in Pro Stock.

"Our plan from the beginning was to race the truck full time for three years. Then in the fourth year we would start racing a car on a limited schedule. The cancellation of the truck class was not the reason we move to Pro Stock, but it did accelerate our plans.

"Over the winter everything came together very quickly. We took delivery of our 2002 Caviler in January. Right after we picked up the car, we hired Brad Jeter as crew chief. Since than we have been doing nothing but testing. Brad has been a great deal of help in getting me comfortable in the seat. So far, I am very pleased with the numbers we have run in testing. I am confident that we are ready to race in Gainesville.

"Right now it seems kind of unreal to me. Here we are on the eve of Gainesville, and I am about to fulfill my life long dream to drive a Pro Stock car just like my Dad. What really makes it special is that my Dad has been here every step of the way. I could not have been able to do this without his help, guidance, and support. I only hope that I can be as good a driver as he was.

"My Dad raced during the heyday of Pro Stock racing; back in the old Sox and Martin days. He raced against the best, and was always right there with them. He put more than one guy on the trailer, and spoiled many other guys' days. I am sure he can teach me a thing or two. He has always been considered a 'racers racer', and I would like to have people think of me the same way. If I come out of this half as good a driver as he was, I will be happy."

Look for Mark Whisnant behind the wheel of the RW Performance Chevrolet Cavalier as he makes his Pro Stock debut at this weekends 33rd Annual Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla.

-rwp-

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Brad Jeter , Mark Whisnant