BY JOE VANHOOSE – JULY 23, 2019
You can’t tell the story of the Powell Memorial without Mark Whitener.
Whitener, known as “The Magic Man,” rolled into Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Florida Saturday night looking to win Central Florida’s biggest Pro Dirt Late Model race for the fifth time – and the fourth time in a row.
At the end of the 67-lap feature, a Whitener climbed out of a black No. 5 car in victory lane. But this time, it was brother David Whitener jumping on the roof of his car and waving the checkered flag with gusto. Together, the Whitener Brothers from Middleburg, Florida led every lap of the Powell Memorial, but David led the last 50 circuits in a dominating performance.
“I won a Powell! Yeah!” David Whitener exclaimed in victory lane. “I tell you, this is the best race – this is the best race of the year. This is 100-percent the biggest win of my career!”
David Whitener led the 26-car field to the green flag, but Mark Whitener quickly moved up from his fourth-place starting spot to grab the lead on lap 10. But on a lap-17 restart, David Whitener banged doors with his brother and got the lead back, a lead that he would not relinquish.
For most of the race, it seemed that the Whiteners would finish 1-2, even as David Whitener continued to pull away from the field as he pushed the cushion of the track higher and higher, running closer to the outside wall than anyone on the half-mile clay track.
Considering that Mark Whitener, Jr. – “Lil Magic,” as the 16-year-old is known – had already won the 602 Late Model feature earlier in the evening, the Whitener family looked to have a dream night in hand as the main event progressed. Jason Fitzgerald gave chase to the brothers but could not overtake them. Powell Memorial past champion Ivedent Lloyd started and stayed near the front but suffered a mechanical failure on lap 57.
The late caution brought a new cast of contenders closer to the Whiteners, including Dalton Cook who had passed several cars on the very bottom of the race track to move up from ninth to third.
Cook tangled with Mark Whitener on the restart, the clash sending Whitener’s car spinning down the frontstretch and into the pit side wall. Officials sent Cook to the rear of the field, but not before Whitener spun his car toward Cook as the pack passed by under caution and ultimately retired to the pits – he finished 15th.
“(Dalton) could have calmed down on that restart there,” Mark Whitener said afterward. “I couldn’t believe it.”
On the final restart, David Whitener again broke free from his chasers and cruised to his first Powell Memorial win. Fitzgerald held onto second, with Trynt Lloyd – son of Ivedent Lloyd — finishing third in just his third pro late model start. Trey Pearson and Jamie Carter rounded out the top five, while Cook rallied back through the field to claim sixth.
Afterward, David Whitener was quick to thank his brother, who happens to be his car owner, who joined him after the win in the frontstretch celebration.
“My brother, he gives me a good ride and lets me race for him – our cars are badass,” David said, still excited.
“He was the class of the field tonight,” Mark Whitener said. “I’m glad his name gets to be on this trophy.”
“I’m glad my name gets to be on top of his,” David Whitener interjected. “This is such a good feeling. This is the best feeling in the world!”
Fans, Friends, Family Come Together
Even in the face of a rainy forecast and a brief interruption of a pesky Florida summer shower, race fans filled the grandstands at Volusia Speedway Park as race cars filled the pits. In all, 97 cars raced in the four divisions.
The $10,000 payday brought out many racers. But everyone came to support the family that has been connected with Central Florida motorsports for generations.
“It still gives you chills,” said James Powell III, who won his family’s race in 2003. “We all come out here and reminisce a little, cry a little and celebrate and go on about it.”
The race honors Powell’s his twin daughters, mother and father, aunt and uncle, who died in a plane crash in 1994. The Powell family owned Ocala Speedway in Central Florida for several years and were regularly the drivers to beat at Volusia.
On Saturday, Powell’s RV was parked outside turn 4, his shirt stained from pulling pork for a BBQ dinner with a long receiving line of family and friends.
“I grew up 10 miles from here – my dad raced here, my first race was here,” Powell said. “It’s just awesome how (track promoter) Tom Whipple and his team have gone above and beyond to elevate this event.
“I think it’s a testament to our family that we’re all still here having this race after 24 years, and it’s getting bigger.”
Volusia Speedway Park – Barberville, FL
Powell Memorial – July 20, 2019
1. David Whitener
2. Jason Fitzgerald
3. Trynt Lloyd
4. Trey Pearson
5. Jamie Carter
6. Dalton Cook
7. Richard Ferry
8. Bo Allen
9. Chad Tuten
10. Ryan Halliday
11. Travis Vardadore
12. Ryan Vansickle
13. Howard Stalls
14. John Baker
15. Mark Whitener
16. Ivedent Lloyd
17. Steven Mathis
18. Stanton Mills
19. Joe Kump
20. Brandon Catto
21. Donnie Chappell
22. Nevin Gainey
23. Wayne O’Neal
24. Tyler Crowder
25. Shan Smith
26. Dennis Williams
*Thanks to JOE VANHOOSE at www.raceweekillustrated.com for the report.