At the Toyota Nationals at the Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Steven Whiteley wrapped up his first full season of Pro Mod racing with a clutch five-second pass in last-shot qualifying to break into one of the fastest fields in the history of drag racing’s toughest class.

Eleventh on the grid with a solid 6.00 when the session got under way but just 18th and unqualified by the time he crept into the beams, Whiteley belted out a 5.95 at 244.03 mph to zoom all the way back up to the No. 11 spot in what turned out to be an all-5-second field. Twenty-eight drivers attempted to qualify, and two of them ran in the fives without even making the cut – Bob Rahaim and Steve Matusek, who finished just ahead of Steven’s dad, Jim Whiteley, who fell just .033-second short of making the program with a 6.01.

In the first round of eliminations against 2012 world champ and 2013 championship runner-up Troy Coughlin, Steven got off the line with a solid .066 reaction time. He maintained the lead all the way to the half-track mark but faded late in the run and bowed out with a slowing 6.31 at 180 mph while Coughlin kept his dwindling title hopes title alive with a 5.880, low e.t. of the entire event to that point.

“We’re just getting started,” said Whiteley, who wraps up the season 12th in the NHRA standings, just 6 points out of the prestigious Top 10. “We’re not going anywhere. We’ve experimented all year with my car and my dad’s car, with converters and clutches, and they both just keep running better and better. I’m getting more experience and learning more about driving every time out, and we’ve got big plans for 2015. We’re in this for the long haul.”