Steven Whiteley wrapped up the best season of his young Pro Mod career at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with his fourth late-round appearance in a row. Whiteley, coming off a No. 1 qualifying effort the last time out, at St. Louis, qualified high in the field again at the Toyota NHRA Nationals in Vegas and took a wild first-round win over Dan Stevenson before dropping a close quarterfinal match with eventual winner Khalid alBalooshi.
Whiteley put a holeshot on Stevenson with one of his best reaction times of the season, .030, and gutted out a hard-fought win when the car wanted to go every which way but straight. “I almost shut it off two times on that run,” said Whiteley, whose J&A Service/YNot Racing was loose throughout both first and second gear. “When it made it the first time, I thought, ‘OK – we’re good,’ and then I about had to shut it off again, but Dan was doing the same thing in the other lane.”
After winning that round with a 5.86 that actually turned out to be his quickest run of the weekend and qualifying sixth with a 5.87, Whiteley slipped to a 5.92 Sunday in the quarterfinals against alBalooshi, who was entrenched in the 5.80s throughout eliminations. “I short-shifted a little on that run,” he said, “and when you hit the first shift a little early, it’s like a timer goes off, and when that time’s up, you hit the next one a hair early, too. It’s a timing thing. I probably cost me three- or four-hundredths of a second.”
Whiteley finishes the season ranked 15th in points, just three points behind father Jim Whiteley, who missed the cut this weekend with his immaculate ’69 Chevelle. It was close – the bump was a 5.94, and Jim ran a best of 5.98.
“We’re all encouraged about 2016,” said Steven, who qualified in the top half of the field at the last four races in a row. “The car ran better and better as the year went on, and we’ll be running the CTS again all next year and in all of 2017. We’ve got a lot of good data now, and things have really turned around going into next year.”