With his third national event title of the season and sixth win overall, reigning Top Alcohol Dragster world champ Jim Whiteley took a giant step toward a second consecutive championship. At the AAA Texas FallNationals in Dallas, Whiteley qualified No. 1, ran low e.t., and top speed of the meet, and put away five-time champ Bill Reichert in a classic final, 5.32 to 5.32.
“I heard rumors that I need to just qualify in Las Vegas to clinch it,” said Whiteley, who recently announced that he’ll park his dragster at the end of the season to devote more time to his sons’ racing careers. “I’ve been told that if I quit right now, [Chris] Demke would have to win every race for the rest of the year to pass me, but we’ll just wait and see. I’ll miss racing this car next year – I’ll probably be pulling my teeth out by March – but I’ve done what I wanted to do. We set out to win a championship, and it looks like we might get two.”
Whiteley qualified on the pole with a 5.28 at 274.50 mph (top speed) and picked up half a tenth to a 5.23 – low e.t. of the meet and his quickest run of the season – in a first-round win over Michael Manners, who broke. Whiteley, who faced past national event champions in all four rounds, beat Monroe Guest with a 5.28 in the second round, and Joey Severance, who came about as close to crashing as one can without doing so, with a tire-shaking 5.32 in the semifinals. “I saw him coming at me and wondered what was going to happen,” he said. “Then I saw him turn and knew I was OK, but somebody was definitely watching out for him that time.”
With a conservative setup for the final, Whiteley wheeled his YNot Racing/Texas J&A Service dragster to a second consecutive 5.32 to nose out Reichert’s almost identical run. “We had to take it easy on the motor the last two rounds,” he said. “The number two main cap was broken completely in two, and we’re fortunate that it survived the run. The crank probably should have come out of it.”
Wife Annie, who was runner-up in Top Alcohol Funny Car one race earlier at the U.S. Nationals, just missed joining Jim in the final when she was inched out by Shane Westerfield in the semifinals, 5.54 to 5.52. “I hate losing on a holeshot, but I was worried about having the car creep in the beams again,” she said. “I’ve been burying my foot in the clutch and not relaxing it because I just don’t want the car to roll, and it took a little longer to come off the clutch pedal and cost me the race, but it was still a good weekend because the car ran so well.”
Whiteley’s YNot Racing/Texas J&A Service Mustang, tuned by Roger Bateman, ran better than it ever has – even better than when she won her first national event two months ago in Chicago. She qualified No. 2 with a 5.52, just two-hundredths of a second off her career-best of 5.50, and ran at least that good in every round of eliminations. She took out Billy Davis in the first round with another 5.52 and Doug Gordon in the second round with a 5.51 (low e.t. of eliminations) before barely falling to Westerfield, the eventual winner, with another 5.52 in the semi’s.
After a few weeks off, the team wraps up the season with back-to-back races in Las Vegas and the NHRA Finals in Pomona.