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Don Whittington

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Don Whittington

Reginald Donald "Don" Whittington,[1] Jr. (born January 23, 1946) is an American former racing driver from Lubbock, Texas, who won the 1979 24 Hours of Le Mans together with his brother Bill Whittington and Klaus Ludwig on a Porsche 935, although Ludwig, a multiple winner at Le Mans and elsewhere, did most of the driving in the heavy rain as the brothers did not have any real racing experience prior to the late 1970s.[2] Don's brother Dale also competed in open wheel racing. His father, Don Whittington, Sr. was also an American racing driver in the USAC National Championship from 1957 to 1959.

Whittington also raced in five Indianapolis 500's, with a best finish of sixth. He also made 10 NASCAR Winston Cup starts in 1980 and 1981. He earned a top-ten in the sport in his debut at Riverside. He also participated in the 1980 International Race of Champions.

In 1979 the brothers purchased and operated the Road Atlanta road-racing circuit (reportedly utilizing the secluded backstretch of the course as a landing strip for aircraft).

In 1984, Whittington co-owned, with Randy Lanier and Marty Hinze, the Blue Thunder Racing Team.

The Whittington brothers also raced aircraft at the Reno Air Races, including the highly modified P-51D "Precious Metal", which set a qualifying record of 438.018 mph (704.922 km/h) in 1976. Between 1976 and 1995, they raced four different P-51 Mustangs (including a rare H model, and a Rolls-Royce Griffon powered P-51D), an F8F Bearcat, and a P-63 King Cobra. While they never scored a victory, Don in "Precious Metal" earned three podium finishes, and was top qualifier twice.

The brothers were heavily involved in the 1970s 'warbird' movement, and participated in preservation groups like the Confederate Air Force and Valiant Air Command. They restored numerous aircraft over the years, including an FG-1D Corsair, Spanish-built HA-1112/BF-109 variant, several P-51 Mustangs, and two B-17 Flying Fortresses (including a rare B-17 E model recovered in Bolivia).

In 1986, Don Whittington plead guilty to money laundering charges in association with his brother Bill's guilty plea to income tax evasion and conspiracy to smuggle marijuana into the United States from Colombia. Don Whittington received an 18 month prison sentence.[3] Along with Randy Lanier, John Paul Sr. and John Paul Jr., the Whittington brothers were part of the IMSA drug smuggling scandal of the 1980s, where a number of drivers financed their racing activities with the proceeds from drug smuggling[4]

In 2009, Whittington sued the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Foundation, over possession of the 1979 24 Hours of Le Mans winning Porsche 935. The car was given to the Speedway's museum in the early 1980s. Whittington claimed it was a loan and wanted to reclaim possession. The Speedway maintained it was a donation. On April 13, 2010, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit sided with the museum and found the evidence pointed to the car being a donation.[5]

Currently, Whittington owns World Jet, a Fixed Based Operator at the Ft. Lauderdale Executive Airport.[6]

Indy 500 results

Year Chassis Engine Start Finish
1980 Penske Cosworth 18th 13th
1981 March Cosworth 26th 31st
1982 March Cosworth 8th 6th
1983 March Cosworth 27th 27th
1985 March Cosworth 6th 24th
Sporting positions
Preceded by
Jean-Pierre Jaussaud
Didier Pironi
Winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans
1979 with:
Klaus Ludwig
Bill Whittington
Succeeded by
Jean Rondeau
Jean-Pierre Jaussaud

References

  1. ^ Judge: IMS Hall of Fame can keep donated car
  2. ^ http://www.maxim.com/cars/racing/article/untold-story-randy-lanier-indy-500-star-and-drug-smuggler
  3. ^ SPORTS PEOPLE; Whittingtons Sentenced, New York Times, January 6, 1987, Retrieved 2011-05-25
  4. ^ Siano, Joseph. Auto Racing; Paul Returns From Prison, New York Times, February 5, 1989, Retrieved 2011-05-25
  5. ^ "WHITTINGTON v. INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY FOUNDATION, INC.". Leagle.com. April 13, 2010. Retrieved 14 April 2010. 
  6. ^ Where are they now?: Shadow figures AutoWeek, December 31, 2008

External links

  • NASCAR and IROC stats from Racing-Reference.info
  • RARA stats from airrace.org
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