Sunday, July 17, 2016

Whitney Lail feature

(Note:  This story ran in the Hickory Daily Record in 2014.)

Lail wants more time on track

By Tom Gillispie
Whitney Lail’s been running Hickory Motor Speedway’s truck division since 2012, but she’s planning a change this year.
She’s still driving the truck division early in the season, but she hopes to be racing Limited Late Models starting in July. She’s practiced with the Limited car on occasion, and she figures she’ll be ready by July.
Why move up to Limiteds? The truck division has regularly low truck counts, and it only runs 10 races a year. She doesn’t have a lot of chance for seat time, and she doesn’t face a lot of vehicles when she does race.
Lail drives for car/truck owner Ashley Huffman, whose Dwight Huffman Racing also fields cars for Huffman (Late Model), Travis Byrd (Limiteds) and Dillon Houser (also Limiteds). She says that DHR has been in the Lail family for many years.
“He (Jeff Lail) was a crewmember for Dwight’s car; Tony Warren was driving,” said Lail, from Hildebran. “I wasn’t born yet. After Dad was married, he stopped helping at the track.
“Then after Dwight’s accident (in 2008), we started coming back.”
Ashley Huffman says that he and Jeff Lail have a close relationship.
“We’re like brothers, and he started sponsoring me in 2008,” Ashley Huffman said of Lail’s wrecker business, Smokey’s, Inc. “When she turned 16, she started running the trucks fulltime.
“She’ll run a partial Limited schedule this year, probably five to eight races, starting in June.”
He says her racing is all about getting better.
“She’s come a long way” since 2012, Ashley Huffman said. “She’s improved a lot. I look for big things from her. She doesn’t have a lot of experience, and with Limited Late Models she’ll get more experience, more seat time. In the first (truck) race this year, it was night and day from last year.”
Lail says DHR has been in her family as long as she can remember.
“My dad was helping out with Dwight Huffman, and I sat around and watched my dad have fun,” she said, who finished fourth and third, respectively, in the first two truck races of the season.
“I thought, ‘Now, it’s time for me to have fun.’ ”
Jeff Lail, 47, helped Whitney get started in ’08.
“He’s the one actually kind of pushed it,” she said. “He loves it. He gets a lot of enjoyment seeing me race. People ask him, ‘Do you get nervous when she races?’, and he says, ‘No, it’s safer in a race car than in a regular vehicle.’ He’s my biggest fan.”
Lail graduated in 2013 from East Burke High, where she was involved in student government and a nursing club called Health Occupation Students of America. Now, she’s a freshman working on a neonatal nursing degree from Lenoir-Rhyne University, and she hopes to work at Catawba Valley Medical Center after graduation.
It would mean she could still race at HMS.
Still, she sounds almost ambivalent when asked about possibly racing at a higher level if the opportunity came along.
“I wouldn’t be bashful to take it, but I love Dwight Huffman Racing,” she said. She thought a bit, then added, “I love racing here, and I don’t plan to go anywhere else but Hickory.”
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