First Time ’ s a Charm
First-timer Jennifer Whisnant enjoys the thrills of drag racing in Street Car victory By Van Abernethy
It ’ s not every day that someone wins the first race they ever entered , but that ’ s precisely what happened to Jennifer Whisnant when she emerged victorious at North Carolina ’ s Mooresville Dragway late last year after she entered a 2008 Chevy Silverado in Mooresville ’ s Street Car class .
The truck belongs to her boyfriend , Don Shuford , who ’ s an accomplished drag racer . He thought it would be fun to introduce Whisnant to the sport and allow her to experience the thrill of things such as watching the tree coming down , trying to cut a good light , speeding down the track and of course , the agony of defeat after she lost , which is what everyone in attendance was expecting would happen sooner rather than later , seeing as how Whisnant was a complete novice to drag racing . “ Well , she experienced everything but the losing part ,” laughs Shuford , who coached her every step of the way .
For Whisnant ’ s very first time run , Shuford taught her how to deep stage , as he stood alongside the truck to critique her performance . She did marvelously well , turning on the first and second light , then gently bumping into the beams a little further until the top bulb went out . “ Upon doing this , I turned and looked out the window at Don and I ’ m all excited , smiling and everything , and then I looked back at the tree and it ’ s coming down !” she laughs .
Whisnant quickly mashed the throttle and streaked down the eighth mile , clocking an 11-second pass in the Silverado . “ It was pretty cute when she turned on her signal light just before exiting the track onto the return road ,” Shuford laughs .
After a couple practice runs Whisnant was ready to do battle in her very first drag race eliminator and her first win light came in short order , only she was completely unaware that dragstrips have win lights near the finish line which are visible to the competitors . In her then-novice state , Whisnant thought she had to wait until the E . T . shack attendant gave her a yellow or white ticket , which then determined whether or not
she was to let out a shriek of excitement . “ When they handed me my first white ticket I was like , ‘ no way ... I won !’”
Few in attendance could have imagined that many more white tickets would follow before the night was over , all with no buy-backs . After a couple round wins , Whisnant was even working the finish line like a seasoned pro , gently tapping the brakes when her opponent wasn ’ t catching her as quickly as she thought they should . That resulted in another win light that she never saw , followed by another shriek of excitement when the E . T . shack attendant presented her with yet another white ticket !
Meanwhile , back at the starting line Shuford was in disbelief , but loving every second of this epic evening .
Finally , it was time for the finals and Whisnant was giddy beyond words . She was racing a young man who had won earlier in the year and is a gracious sportsman as well . The young man ’ s father even came over to greet Whisnant moments before the final round ( and sensing her excitement ) asked if this was her first final . He was astonished when she blurted out , “ This is my first race !”
Buckled in and ready , Whisnant and her opponent crept into the staging beams as the amber bulbs began their descent . Whisnant was slightly late leaving the line , but her opponent turned it red , giving her the improbable victory in her very first drag race . “ Don ’ s a good teacher ... he taught me how to win !” she declares .
Since scoring her amazing victory , Whisnant has managed to preserve her undefeated record by not racing anymore ... at least for now . “ I ’ ve been tagging along with Don and he ’ s allowed me to be the crew chief on his Super Stock Camaro ,” she says .
Entering more races is certainly in her future , but for now she ’ ll savor her undefeated record and smile each time she looks at her giant $ 100 check on display in her living room , reminding her of a most amazing night in Mooresville . DI
PHOTOGRAPHS BY VAN ABERNETHY
28 | Drag Illustrated | DragIllustrated . com Issue 168