Less than 24 hours after having his first national Midget series victory ripped from his grasp in the final corner, Daniel Whitley found redemption and, finally, his place atop the podium with the Xtreme Outlaw Midget Series presented by Toyota.
Whitley, 20, of Ferndale, CA, lost the lead in the final 50 feet of Saturday’s Feature at Atomic Speedway after leading nearly the entire distance. Though he was disappointed, he shrugged it off before arriving at Brushcreek Motorsports Complex on Sunday.
With a refocused mind and a fast car underneath him, Whitley jetted out to the lead at the drop of the green and never broke his concentration, surviving multiple caution flags, restarts and even two red flag periods en route to his first career Midget Feature win.
“It feels awesome; I don’t even know what to say,” Whitley said. “I’m just so thankful for everyone I have around me; I have such a good group of people and a good team.”
Whitley joined the Indiana-based Abacus Racing team full-time before the start of the 2023 season alongside teammates Laci Ferno and 2023 Chili Bowl Nationals champion Logan Seavey. His dirt racing experience as a former Outlaw Kart and Sprint Car racer around his native California gave him a running start as he prepared to take on a full schedule of Midget events, and it’s already paid off with his first Feature win only halfway through his first year at the controls of a Midget for team owner Brent Cox.
Whitley and the team had come close to Victory Lane twice in the past three races, leading laps in last Friday’s main event at Doe Run Raceway before settling for third place, followed by the heartbreaking loss at the hands of Jade Avedisian in the last-lap pass Saturday. However, they kept their heads down and battled back for the win in Brushcreek’s first-ever national Midget event on Sunday.
“I thought we definitely had a good chance; we showed speed the first time I ran for [Abacus],” Whitley said. “I didn’t think [we’d win] maybe this early, but I definitely thought we could get it done.”
In similar fashion to the start of Saturday’s Feature, Whitley jumped out to a big lead in the opening laps, ripping the top side around the 3/10-mile oval. Several caution flags peppered the main event, forcing Whitley to keep his car and tires up for the restarts. Multiple cautions for opponents’ flat tires, crashes and various mechanical breakdowns from the speed and momentum of the track had Whitley sweating a bit, but not enough to rattle him.
“It’s everyone’s concern when you have a long green flag run like that at the beginning, especially [at that pace] of laps,” Whitley said. “The only reason I knew I would be fine was because my crew was telling me to keep my tires warm, and I knew they didn’t care about it, so I knew we were good.”
After the second red flag period with less than 10 laps left, Whitley was leading the field back to green with a crowd of tough customers behind him, including the red-hot Jade Avedisian, defending Series champion Zach Daum, current Series points leader Cannon McIntosh and multi-time USAC champion Jerry Coons Jr. After McIntosh took it to the work area for service and Avedisian’s blown right-rear tire, the veteran duo of Daum and Coons trailed Whitley coming to green on the final restart with three laps left.
“I kept thinking about keeping the race to myself and stay out front and not make any mistakes,” Whitley said. “At the end of the race, it was getting pretty treacherous to keep your car right on the edge and in the traction. But I knew I had the car to do it and the trust in the car, honestly.”
That trust in his equipment paid off as Whitley got a great restart, led the field back to the checkered flag and sailed across the finish line to bag the $4,000 check and Abacus’ third national-level Feature win of the year.
After a night at the heartbreak hotel on Saturday, Whitley is looking forward to a much better night’s rest – now a national Midget series Feature winner.
“It feels great after not being able to go to sleep last night, thinking about it the whole night,” he said.
ABBREVIATED RESULTS (view full results)
Feature (25 Laps): 1. 58-Daniel Whitley; 2. 7U-Zach Daum; 3. 7X-Jerry Coons Jr; 4. 25K-Taylor Reimer; 5. 97-Gavin Miller; 6. 71-Jade Avedisian; 7. 19M-Ethan Mitchell; 8. 17B-Austin Barnhill; 9. 40-Chase McDermand; 10. 08-Cannon McIntosh; 11. 27X-Kaylee Bryson; 12. 26-Chance Crum; 13. 11T-Cale Coons; 14. 19AZ-Hayden Reinbold
The Xtreme Outlaw Midgets continue a busy stretch of summer racing next Friday-Saturday night, Aug. 4-5, at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 alongside the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars as part of the annual Ironman 55 weekend.