By Phil Whipple,
RaceOnTexas.com Staff Writer. Photo By: J. M. Hallas
ROBSTOWN, Texas — All year long, racers across south Texas have labored away in their shops hoping to earn wins, top five and top-10 finishes. Now, with points titles long since decided and those high-stakes 'Fall Specials' in the books, only one big event remains on the short track calendar.
When Steven Whiteaker Jr. and staff kick off their third annual Jerry Whiteaker Memorial this week at South Texas Speedway, one of the local boys in Limited Modified will be going all-out. You see, this race is personal for him – and a win on Saturday night would be more than satisfying.
For 39-year-old Dustin Butcher, this weekend's event has a special meaning. It's been circled on his calendar for months, and a win there on Saturday night could even be a little bit emotional.
While the 2021 season saw only a part-time effort, there were several bright spots. In 10 starts, Butcher earned two top-five and four top-10 finishes. More importantly, the time spent with family was needed.
“I've had a tough couple of years in the sport,” he explained. “Consistency pays dividends, and it's hard to develop that when you only race part-time. My oldest daughter plays travel softball, so that has been taking a lot of my time. The racing has been cut short a little bit, but time with her has been awesome.
“So with not many starts the last two years, it takes time to get back into the groove. You're not as sharp when you don't run every weekend. It's still been fun, and now I'm really looking forward to getting back to STS for the Jerry Whiteaker Memorial. We're going to give it our best shot at our home track.”
Butcher's background in racing is extensive, having been around the sport for his whole life.
“I've raced in Sport Mod or Limited Modifieds for pretty much my whole career,” he said. “Steven Whiteaker is my uncle, and Stevie Jr. is my cousin,” Butcher said. “It was Mr. Whiteaker who gave me my first opportunity to drive a race car at I-37 Speedway. I was in the Military, and when I got out at the end of 2007 I traveled with Stevie a little bit.
“Big Steve gave me my first Limited, and I've been here ever since. I've won a few championships at South Texas Speedway, and I won the Shootout in 2015 or 2016. I ran second to Chris Brown in the first Jerry Whiteaker Memorial, which paid $8,900 to win. I'm going after the victory Saturday night.”
Anybody who has followed Limited Modified racing in South Texas for the last few years knows how tough it can be to win features. Butcher says he faces some stiff competition every time he unloads.
“I think the Sport Mod class in South Texas has some of the toughest competition anywhere in the state,” Butcher said with great emphasis. “On a weekly basis you look at STS, I-37 and Texana, and they've all got pit areas chocked full of talent.
“You have veterans like Howard Willis and Lawrence Mikulencak, who can still get it done on any given race night. You also have a ton of fast kids coming in, so you have to get up on the wheel if you have any hopes to run up front. It's a challenge to win or even come close to the podium in this class.”
Throughout the 2021 season, Butcher piloted a very nice machine in Limited Modifieds. He speaks fondly of his car, as if it was much more than simply a collection of parts and pieces.
“My Limited Modified is a 2019 Innovative Race Car,” Butcher said with energy. “It's one of the finest built chassis that we've ever seen in the Sport Mod world. The craftsmanship is hand-down better than most cars out there. It's a great handling car, even for a part-timer like me. It's an excellent race car.”
Along with his 11 years of experience behind the wheel and top-notch race car, Butcher also has a few key people behind the scenes who are responsible for the success of his racing program.
“I'd like to give a special thanks to 89 Motorsports for all they do for me. I also need to thank WW Bodies, Best Racing Engines, Any Time Reps, Dark Horse Racing Shocks, Church’s Chicken, 1st Class Towing, G&M Oilfield Services, Supreme Vinyl Works, Innovative Race Cars, and most importantly, my family, friends and fans. I appreciate all they do, and couldn't go racing without their support.”
In 2022, Butcher is going to try his hand at a different division. He has a great mentor, and feels ready.
“After this weekend's race, I'll be putting my Limited up for sale and plan to go Modified racing next year,” Butcher concluded. “I've talked a lot with Stevie about it; and it's something I really want to do. It feels to me like Mods are making a comeback, and I want to give them a try.
“Before I call it a day and focus more on my kids and my family, I want to see if I can do this. I'll lean on Stevie a ton for guidance, and go with what he suggests. At least if I can only race 10 to 15 times a year, I'll be able to go and try something different. I'm really looking forward to the experience.”
You can stream every lap of the Jerry Whiteaker Memorial 3 this weekend right here! Click here to order/watch!