At the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at historic Bristol Dragway, YNot Racing’s Jim Whiteley ran deep into the 5.90s for the third race in a row and for the second in a row ran stride for stride with fellow two-time NHRA world champ, Rickie Smith. If he’d run just 1/200th of a second quicker, it would’ve been two straight upset wins over Smith.

Whiteley, who won the 2012 and 2013 NHRA Top Alcohol Dragster championships, gained an imperceptible jump at the line, .056 to .059, and his blown car and Smith’s nitrous-injected machine were locked doorhandle to doorhandle the entire length of the quarter-mile in a race won by Smith, 5.97 to 5.98. The margin of victory: four-thousandths of a second.

“I never saw him,” said Whiteley, who was just 20 inches behind Smith when they went through the lights. Whiteley led by more than half a tenth at the 330-foot mark and by more than two-hundredths as he passed the 1,000-foot cone, but Smith’s better top-end charge, 244 mph to 239, was just enough to get around Whiteley’s ’69 Chevelle.

“I couldn’t hear him either, because a blower engine is louder,” Whiteley said. “He’s been around for a long time and has won a lot of races a lot of ways. He backed out after I pre-staged, but that’s just Rickie being Rickie. I don’t have a problem with him.”

Whiteley powered into the 5.80s for the first time officially on the way to his semifinal finish Houston, but considering the altitude, humidity, and oppressive heat at Bristol, this might be his most impressive performance in a Pro Mod to date. “I’m really excited about this,” he said. “Pro Mod is just a fun, fun class to run, and the car keeps getting better and better every time out.”