The DER Series was formed when Bristol Dragway decided to drop its own weekly racing program. Whitmore proposed to then Bristol Motor Speedway President Jeff Byrd that he would run his own program.
There had been questions at the Dec. 2 banquet about whether the DER Series was coming back, but Whitmore reached an agreement with Bristol Dragway — where he will run 12 races in 2018. It is a drop from a 20-race schedule in 2017.
“When I first took it over, Jeff Byrd told me that he thought 16 was the right number,” Whitmore said. “Over the years, I’ve maintained 16-20. The way it works is the dragway sets its schedule first and the leftover dates are mine. They’ve changed their schedule and it works best for us with these 12 events.”
The concerns were real the program could have been dropped in 2018, and Whitmore said a few factors played into his decision to keep it going. He remembered the conversations with Byrd about how it was valuable to have a local racing series even if the track didn’t do it.
Whitmore tried to keep the racers in mind, first and foremost. He pointed out many would have to travel farther to race if Bristol didn’t offer the program and how they feel safer racing at Bristol since it’s a longer track with concrete walls.
There was also a sense of loyalty and his experience of going through a similar situation 20 years ago.
“The racers have been loyal to me and have supported me. I hated to leave them hanging out there,” Whitmore said. “Some might have given up racing totally. Even if I decided to take the year off and come back in 2019, I wondered if there would have been the support. Some would have raced at other tracks, while others would have walked away from the sport.
“I had a good program going in 1997. When we rebuilt the track, some of the racers found other things to do. Some of them sold their cars and bought boats. Then on the weekends, they never get back to racing.”
Plans are for Bristol Dragway to release its 2018 schedule this week. The track’s marquee event, the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, is again on Father’s Day weekend, June 15-17, 2018.
’Tis the season
There are plenty of great Christmas gifts for the race fan from tickets to collectibles and other memorabilia.
At Bristol Motor Speedway, there are plenty of ticket options from single-day tickets to weekend packages to season passes. Tickets also are on sale at Food City locations throughout the area.
The BMS gift shop is open, featuring clothing, collectibles and other articles representing the track and fans’ favorite drivers.
Another option is a trip to a racing school. If you live out the fantasy of being a NASCAR star, there are schools like the Buck Baker Seat Time Racing School at Bristol Motor Speedway, the Richard Petty Driving Experience at Charlotte Motor Speedway or the Rusty Wallace Racing Experience at Memphis International Raceway.
From my own experience of going around all three tracks, each of them are much different in the way you drive them. Ride-along programs with professional drivers are also available.
For those who enjoy open-wheel cars, the Bertil Roos Racing School trains students in European-style — road racing at various tracks around the Eastern U.S. For aspiring racers, the school has a full stable of Formula 2000 cars and offers full SCCA accreditation.