By Phil Whipple,
RaceOnTexas.com Staff Writer
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (Dec. 11, 2021) — Ageless veteran Lawrence Mikulencak and rising star Memphis Villarreal snagged wins in their respective divisions, as officials wrapped up the third annual Jerry Whiteaker Memorial on Saturday night at South Texas Speedway.
Mikulencak inherited a $5,000 payday in the 40-lap Limited Modified A Main after second-place driver Marcus Mikulencak spun leader Ray Allen Kulhanek out in the closing laps. Villarreal prevailed in a wild Factory Stock feature that saw prerace favorite Dalton Faulkner wind up in unfamiliar territory.
Jerry Walters (Pure Stock) and Gilbert Perez (EMods) were also feature winners on a windy, chilly yet dry night for racing in south Texas. Temperatures hovered in the low 50s during the entire program.
Mikulencak, of Corpus Christi, started seventh on the 26-car grid and steadily worked his way into contention. As the laps began to wind down, Marcus started applying pressure to Kulhanek. As the two cars entered Turn 3 coming to the white flag, Mikulencak got aggressive.
With a highly visible, direct shot to Kulhanek's rear bumper, he knocked him out of control and handed the race over to Lawrence. Kulhanek stopped at the start-finish line after the race to express his anger, exchanging words with the winner. Emotions ran high following this high-stakes, late-season event.
Top qualifier JJ Jennings ran in fourth for most of the race yet finished second after that late-race fracas up front. Shane Hoefling filled out the podium after starting in the 11th position. The event's biggest mover was track promoter Steven Whiteaker Jr., who drove up to fourth after starting 17th on the grid.
Tracy Denby Jr., of Vidor, completed the top five with a solid performance in his sharp No. 15 entry.
“I kind of figured we would finish one, two, three the way were were running,” the elder Mikulencak said in Victory Lane. “I could see that Marcus had the better car of the three of us up front. I know at the end of these $5,000-to-win races, it's gets pretty darned aggressive.
“I went ahead and ran up there as close as I could get behind them, in case something like that took place and I could capitalize. Fortunately, I was there at the right time and it worked out in my favor. The longer we would run, the more Ray would back it into the corners. Marcus was really strong.”
Finishing sixth through 10th in the Limited Modified A Main were Kris Rye, Howard Willis, Jared Maupin, Johnny Torres and Daniel Preston. Seven cautions slowed the pace, all for minor incidents. Willis, Kale Westover, Hoefling and Kyle Carter all won B Mains, while Torres won the wild LCQ.
Villarreal, of Corpus Christi, held off a hard-charging Walter Hamilton to earn his healthy payday. Hamilton, of Dallas, is the 2021 (and 2020) USRA National champion and made his presence known. Josh Ellender crossed the stripe in third, while Cameron Starry and Tryton Temple finished fourth and fifth, respectively.
It took patience and skills to get it done, two things Villarreal has in spades on race day. He shadowed Jesse Meazell until the right opportunity to pounce presented itself. With six laps left, he got a chance.
“It's all about timing, making that move at the right moment,” Villarreal told announcer Owen Pittman in Victory Lane. “I think we were both racing real hard there, it was a good, fun race. I know I got into the 88 (Meazell) a few times, but man, we were racing for the win in the Jerry Whiteaker Memorial.”
Finishing sixth through 10th in the Factory Stock A Main were Donald Cain Jr., Brian Rye, Dalton Faulkner, Boone Evans and Stephen Danielson. Seven cautions slowed the pace, most for minor spins. Hamilton and Temple won the two B Mains, while Danielson won the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ).
The Factory Stock portion of the event was loaded with drama, as well. Faulkner was clearly unhappy with Villarreal, and clearly spun him out at lap six and was promptly sent to the rear. Faulkner suffered damage to his car in the contact and was never a factor after that incident.
With the third annual Jerry Whiteaker Memorial in the books, another season of dirt track action comes to an end in the great state of Texas. The year began there with the inaugural 'Bash from the Beach' in January, and ended with a wild, often unruly JWM 3 event last weekend.
You can replay all of the action from Saturday night's A Mains at South Texas Speedway with a subscription to SpeedPass at RaceOnTexas.com. With over 100 events streamed Live in 2021, SpeedPass offered endless hours of quality content all year long. It was truly an amazing season.
On behalf of everyone at Race On Texas, we thank you for watching all year long and hope you'll be back with us again in 2022 for more great short track racing from around Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas. We have some exciting winter racing coming up with L87 and the STARS indoor series. Keep checking back. The SpeedPass program is still growing, and there are more good things ahead in 2022.