The father-and-son team of Jim and Steven Whiteley was locked in the five-second zone on five of six qualifying runs at the NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway, the third race of the 10-race J&A Service NHRA Pro Mod Series. That’s the good part. The bad part is that neither took the green for the first round of eliminations.

Jim’s YNot Racing/J&A Service ’69 Chevelle was still in the pits when scheduled opponent Troy Coughlin won the first round over alternate Gerry Capano. Steven’s ’14 CTS was about one inch from the starting line – pre-staged but not quite staged – when the Tree flashed, and veteran Steve Matusek had the track all to himself as Steven was timed out.

“I was taking my time, trying to stage as shallow as I could, and didn’t notice that he was all the way in or I’d have sped it up a little,” Steven said. “It’s too bad. The car was really running good – mid .90s every time.”

Steven ran a 5.970 at 243.63 mph off the trailer Friday afternoon and followed with an even better 5.957 at 244.25 that evening. After a 5.976/245.45 in Saturday’s final qualifying session, everything seemed to be in place for a deep run in eliminations.

“We’ve finally gotten to where we want to be with the new car,” Steven said of his Haas-built CTS. “We had a setup that was working pretty good with the old Camaro, and we put the same thing in this car and just nit-picked it until we found what it wanted. Now that it’s happy, we just need to throw power at it. It’s going down the track every time; we just need to get a little more aggressive.”

Jim’s car was performing even better than Steven’s – especially on his final qualifying attempt. Coming off his first career semifinal appearance as a Pro Mod driver, the former Top Alcohol Dragster world champ ran a 5.93 at just 236 mph, coasting across the finish line after his engine expired in high gear.

“Dad’s car was flying this weekend – outrunning mine – but it grenaded a motor on that last one,” Steven said. “They had it all put back together and ready to go for first round. They would have made the call, but there wasn’t enough time to get everything totally right, so they decided not to run it, and it was the right decision. The important thing is that both cars are really running good right now.”