Jasper fifth-grader speeds into racing career

Photos by Marlena Sloss/The Herald
Reed Whitney, 10, uses an iRacing simulator to practice Quarter Midget racing at his home in Jasper on Monday. Reed's father, Chuck, says the simulator is "a really good tool for teaching a young racer. There's no doubt in my mind that it's making young racers better."


JASPER — Ten-year-old Reed Whitney slams the accelerator and drifts his midget race car around a dirt turn like it’s sliding on ice.

He’s bolting by kids from all over the world, and after dodging a multi-car wreck, he bursts through to the middle of the pack, when — click. He is disqualified from the virtual race for some unknown reason.

Reed hops out from behind his desk, his three computer monitors, and his steering wheel and pedal setup to break the news to his father, Chuck. Dad has been watching an online stream of his son’s race — complete with live broadcasters and flashy camera angles — from his smartphone in the Whitneys’ Jasper kitchen.

Reed expresses his frustration with the glitch. Chuck reminds him he’ll have another shot next week. The online racing — which takes place on a program called iRacing — is just an effective way for Reed to fine-tune his skills, a tool for improvement.

On real tracks with real cars, he is among the best quarter-midget drivers in the country.

After 12 top-three finishes at national events across the country, the Tenth Street Elementary fifth-grader recently sped to his first national victory at a United States Auto Club tour race in Las Vegas. Total, he’s won more than 100 races in a career that has spanned more than half his short life.

When he turns 13, Reed will reach a crossroads. As he grows older, the competition will stiffen. But the humble and down-to-earth boy is eager to speed into the future.

Reed Whitney, 10, uses an iRacing simulator to practice Quarter Midget racing at his home in Jasper on Monday. The simulator features three screens, a steering wheel controller and foot pedals.

His ultimate goal is to race sprint cars at the highest professional level. His goal for 2020? Win a quarter-midget national championship.

“All of us do it together,” Chuck said of the family’s approach to Reed’s racing. “We’re all, all-in.”

Reed competes in the USAC .25 National Quarter Midget circuit and is currently ranked sixth in the Light 160 Pavement division and seventh in the Senior Honda Pavement class. He also races in the organization’s Light World Formula division.

Racing runs in the young boy’s blood. His mother, Amanda, raced full body, dirt modified cars for years in upstate New York. Chuck has been involved in some form of auto racing his whole life, and he now has a job at Ridetech.

Reed’s parents were both born in Syracuse, New York, and actually met at a racetrack. The family has since moved across the country for Reed’s career. They relocated from Syracuse to Arizona on Reed’s first birthday, and then moved to North Carolina. The Whitneys landed in Jasper in 2018.

Reed has been racing for about six years — since the day after his fifth birthday. He’d attended races since he was a baby and couldn’t wait to finally get behind the wheel. Soft spoken and reluctant to be in the spotlight, he said “going fast and winning” are his favorite parts of the sport.

He’s “just really humble” about his success, Chuck said. Reed hasn’t expressed a desire to take his cars to school, and when he brings his friends over to hang out, his parents have to make him show off his wheels to his friends.

“He just don’t want it to be his identity,” Chuck said. “But what he does is pretty special. He’s one of the top three or four best in the country at what he does.”

A first place trophy from the USAC .25 National Tour in Las Vegas won by Reed Whitney, 10, sits at his home in Jasper on Monday.

After winning the biggest race of his career in Vegas, he pumped his fists in the air, circled the track with the checkered flag and was finished celebrating by the time his car stopped.

A crowd of people came to congratulate and high-five him. Reed was already thinking about his next race.

As he has grown, he’s become a more aggressive driver while also sharpening his skills. In two years, he will transition into the D2 midget and 305 sprint car classes, where he will race against adults.

“He’ll be young to do it,” Chuck said. “But he’ll be ready.”

The family takes a less traditional approach to Reed’s racing. They choose to run nationally, which pulls them out of season-long contention at local and regional circuits. Still, the experience Reed gains on the activity’s biggest stage is invaluable.

Quarter-midget racing is popular around Indianapolis, but not so much around here, Chuck explained. The cars are shaped like shoes and can push 50 mph at full speed. While controlling them, Reed has won races in places like Nashville, Tennessee; Atlanta; and Huntsville, Alabama.

The Whitneys compete at a track 30 weekends a year. Reed is one of few quarter-midget drivers that race on both pavement and dirt tracks.

Southern Indiana is a hotbed for sprint car racing and full-size midget car racing, so as Reed grows toward his ultimate goal, he’ll be in a position to succeed. In the meantime, Chuck said racing has taught his son crucial life lessons.

He knows how to win and lose with dignity and grace, and it’s also taught him to respect his opponents.

“A lot of the teachers, when they talk about him, they talk about how he’s actually engaging,” Chuck said. “They said that he’s one of the most polite, respectful — really handles himself well.”

He later added: “He’s one of the most respected kids in the deal in the country. He’s one of the most respected because he races really clean, and takes care of his car, and respects people around him.”

Some of the kids Reed races against have paid teams, private jets and other grandiose resources. The Whitneys have themselves and a trailer. Chuck fixes up and tweaks the cars — Reed has three that he rotates between at every event — and Amanda takes care of the travel arrangements.

Their small operation hasn’t stopped the racing wunderkind from being a national runner-up in the senior Honda class and winning two regional championships, as well as four track championships.

With his foot firmly on the gas, there should be many more of those in Reed’s future.

More on DuboisCountyHerald.com