The Nevada Pro Stock Association had a barnburner of a season this year. After the final checkered flag waved Travis White was the champion by only three points ahead of Shawn Natenstedt.
The series traveled between Rattlesnake Raceway in Fallon, Lovelock Speedway as well as two California tracks, American Valley Speedway in Quincy and one in Cedarville. Due to a cancellation the final two rounds were run during Dirt Track Championship weekend at Rattlesnake Raceway.
Right off the bat Natenstedt threw down the gauntlet and showed he was the man to beat. White took up that challenge and began to work at making his car faster and better.
He works out of his shop, Battle Born Performance but his day job is Silver State Freight Brokerage, located only a few yards away.
And like many in racing he’s been around or involved for a long time.
“I started racing in 2000 I believe in what then were called Bombers,” he said. “I used to work for MSC Welding here in town for Arnie Martin. My Christmas bonus one year was a racecar. He actually brought a car in one day, which was standard for him to say, ‘knock the windows out and put a roll cage in,’ and get this one done.”
After doing the work White asked Martin what color he wanted it to be.
“He said I don’t know it’s your race car you can paint it what ever in the hell you want,” White said. “And I said, ‘what do you mean,’ and he said that’s your Christmas bonus. I said okay but he paid me all that week to build that car.”
Up to then White had helped build cars as well as being on Martin’s pit crew. Once on the track success came early as he won Rookie of the Year as well as the Bomber championship.
Then he joined the Army National Guard and wasn’t able to race as much but still ended up eighth for the season. After that he stopped racing for several years.
Then in 2014 his brother Mike White talked him into buying his racecar, which was a modified. And once again that first season was a success.
“We won the Nevada Rookie of the Year in the IMCA Division, we finished third for the Western Region for Rookie of the Year and eighth in the nation for Rookie of the Year,” he said.
He also had to by a new car, a Phoenix, as White wrecked that first one. He finished the season with the new car and later kind of fell into the pro stocks.
White got his first pro stock ride in the #7 car that Leo Mayfield put him into. In 2016 Robert Miller put him into a car they had and he finished second in his first race at Hawthorne.
“Then I decided I was going to build a car so I built my old modified into a pro stock,” he said.
While a modified and pro stock share some common things there are some major differences between the two. The amount of engine set back is one big difference.
“On a modified it’s about 18 inches but in a pro stock the number 1 cylinder is at the ball joint, so there is a lot more set back with a modified and of course the bodies are different,” he said. “Other than that, they’re really similar.”
A modified driver, with the larger set back, has a car that steers better going into a corner and has more traction coming out of it.
It’s a bit different in a pro stock.
“The more weight on the nose the more likely the car doesn’t want to turn as well and the more apt the car wants to push,” he said. “So anytime you can take weight off the nose the car’s going to turn better.”
As a result a pro stock driver needs to start turning and braking earlier to keep the momentum. And he feels it takes more finesse to drive a pro stock.
“Driving the pro stock this year I’ve learned a tremendous amount. Robert Miller has taught me more stuff than I can ever say. He has taught me to be more smooth and concentrate on momentum and that’s what really makes a pro stock fast,” White said. “And for that matter it’s made me a better modified driver because I still race the modified.”
As a result he feels he’s really turned a corner this year as far as his driving ability goes and that Miller has a big role in that. Now he’s focused on being smooth, consistent and not so choppy in his driving.
Racing is a learning sport no matter if one competes at the grass roots or highest levels. Unlike most sports the playing field, or track, is constantly changing, varies between venues and even the car’s handling changes during a race.
One way White used to increase his knowledge is to attend racing schools.
“We try to go every year, the last one we’ve been to is in Arkansas,” he said. “Then we went to Race Logic, which was in Vegas and got good information from both schools. That’s part of the challenge is knowing what the car is actually doing and being able to go back after the fact of what’s wrong.”
As White was coming to grips with the different handling and knowing what was needed to be Miller stepped in to help.
“It wasn’t until Robert put me into his GRT and for that matter whenever I got into Leo’s pro stock knowing what a good car really was,” he said.
It was a revelation that showed him what a good car should feel like as well as what it was like to not only go fast but have a good handling car. After that he knew where to tweak and to get the car that much better as well as how to adjust his driving style.
Racing, especially oval track type might appear easy but it’s really a science in itself and good drivers are always learning every time they are out on it.
“Where before I was adjusting my driving style to fit a car that was wrong to begin with,” he said. “So I was constantly chasing my tail, I could never get ahead of it.”
Once he learned how it works White put that knowledge back into his modified and pro stock. Then he began running really good and is usually a contender every time he’s on the track.
In addition to his racing he began to push his shop about 18 months ago so it would take in more work.
“We’ve done bodies for some guys, I think last year we did five bodies, which is very labor intensive, take a lot of time. The bodies for me is the more the love of doing it and I enjoy building them,” he said. “It’s pretty neat to take a sheet of aluminum and build a race car out of it and make it look like something.”
He added that it’s very difficult to make much money from this and one has to love doing it as they won’t get rich.
“The main thing I try to do with the shop is to provide parts for these guys and provide them with a better price,” he said. “My idea is to help the lower budget guys be able to race and save some money so they can be out there. Because at the end of the day if they aren’t out there then nobody is racing so we all have to help one another.”
As far as cars rolling into his shop, White explained that it will roll out of there set up the way he would race it. He added that Robert Miller has come in at times and helped setting up the cars.
Of course part of the challenge to a customer is that the set up might not fit their driving style.
Then he added with a laugh, “everybody is going to hold back a little something, that’s part of being competitive.”
Safety is another prime concern of his and he doesn’t skimp on the necessary equipment.
Every since he left the bomber division White has used a HANS device. He also has a full containment seat as well as a fire suppression system in his car.
“The way I see it is if you can’t afford good safety equipment then you’ve got no business being out there racing.
White added that he will sell safety equipment at his cost to drivers that want to buy those items.
Racing is not always fun and games and White commented that he’s had some good wrecks. One was a roll over another when he went head on into a wall over 90 miles an hour and kind of messed up his neck and this season he’s been having some trouble with that.
Although he could worry about the hazards of racing once its time to go the racer in him comes out.
“Whenever I get in that car, all that just goes away. I don’t know what it is but when you get in that car everything just fades away and you’re not scared but just focused on turning fast laps,” he said. “It’s a case of a driver putting his goals first and not worrying about the rest when it’s time to be out on the track.”
Not only is White proud of his accomplishments but also thankful for the support from his crew, friends and his family.
“Cody White is my nephew and he’s my main crew guy, definitely my crew chief as he pulls a lot of weight. With Robert Miller helping, my dad Ray White, my wife and daughter Roxann and Fiona.”
He acknowledged that their support not only helps him but also keeps him going after a bad weekend.
Reflecting on the season past White said, “After the first five or six races in pro stock I was discouraged. I thought Shawn Natenstedt is just going to run away with it and we don’t have a chance of beating him. But in the same sense it got me to the stage of, well I’ve got to work harder. If I’m going to beat him in a race then I’m going to have to bring my A game and so that’s what we did and we were able to win three of them.
This is a source of pride for White as only two other drivers were able to beat Natenstedt and they are Robert Miller and Robert Mull. These are some of the veterans White used to watch race and now he’s out there with them.
“It’s pretty neat to come full circle from idolizing those guys then getting to race with them and be competitive with them. It’s kind of like a dream come true,” he said. “The bottom line is that you’ve got to worker harder than the next guy.”
He also acknowledged that Natenstedt has been an inspiration to go faster and get better at what he does.
“I know we can agree to compete as hard as we can to beat one another. So if nothing else we at least have that camaraderie between us,” he said.
The final two races are what decided the Pro Stock championship. On Saturday evening White scored the victory but on Sunday it seemed that Natenstedt had everything going his way.
Late in Sunday’s race, during a restart the steering wheel on Natenstedt’s car came lose and he caused another caution when he stopped in Turn 1. That put him at the back of the pack where he began his charge while White was close to the front.
“I knew for me to be able to beat him is for me to be on my A game all the time and my car to be on it’s a game all the time,” he said. “And so it’s those little details that will cost you a championship and unfortunately for him that’s what cost the championship.”
White also acknowledge that luck plays a part in this but the fact is that his team worked hard and did their best, which was good enough to claim the title after a long, hard fought season.
It was a great season for the Pro Stocks as the title wasn’t decided until the final laps of the season’s final race.
Asked about his plans for 2018 he said, “I’m not real sure at the moment. Because right now we’ve dedicated a lot of time, money and energy into racing and I’m not sure if that racing is going to still going to be as much as a priority next year for us.”
After giving this some thought the racer emerged again.
“But I always say that and the next thing I know I’m running for a points championship. Racing is funny that way. It’s been a long hard fought season this year so I’m a little burned out right now. But I think come race season next year I’ll have a renewed energy.”
He also allowed that White might defend his pro stock title, especially since they don’t race every week.
“That’s what I like about the Pro Stock as its every three weeks so we have time in between so it’s not such a grueling thing. With the modifieds it’s grueling because it’s every weekend and there’s sometimes where you can race twice in a weekend if you really want to chase points.”
He explained in 2014 when they were chasing points for Rookie they’d race sometimes twice in a weekend and traveling all over the place.
Next season he would like to race his modified a bit more as the team turned a corner with that car.
“So I am looking forward to what next year’s going to bring. But it’s just kind of hard right now because it’s been such a hard year.”
He does plan to race in some winter series early in the year with the modified like the Winter Nationals in Arizona as well as some other special races.
But as far as the pro stock goes right now his plans are up in the air.
“Next year I don’t even know where we stand. The car’s going to be out there for sure and it will be competitive but I’m not sure who is going to be driving it,” he said. “I may have somebody else drive the car or I may have somebody run the car part time and I run it part time. But the car will be out there and the car will be competitive if not more competitive this year.”
Right now however it’s time for White to sit back, savor this championship and enjoy the holidays. Although he’s still operating both of his businesses after New Year’s it will be time to plan for the challenges next season will offer him and his team.