In his probably his best outing since he beat world champ Rickie Smith in the Houston final early this season, Jim Whiteley capped off a successful 2016 campaign with his third semifinal showing in the 10-race J&A Service NHRA Pro Mod Series.
Whiteley catapulted from the bubble to the final four at the NHRA Toyota Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with increasingly quicker runs in his J&A Service/YNot Racing ’69 Chevelle. He made the cut with a pair of five-second runs in qualifying, including a 5.959 at 242.23 mph, then picked up the pace in eliminations.
Against former Top Fuel racer Sidnei Frigo, whose qualifying crash at Houston enabled Whiteley to go from the first alternate spot to the winner’s circle, Whiteley picked up dramatically to a 5.92 but didn’t need it when Frigo blatantly red-lighted with a -.246 light. Frigo, winless against Whiteley in three career meetings, nearly duplicated his 5.82 No. 1 qualifying time with a wasted 5.83.
In the second round, Whiteley met Clint Hairston, who prevented a father-son matchup by defeating son Steven Whiteley in the first round despite Steven’s outstanding .026 reaction time. Jim also had a .026 light against Hairston and parlayed it into another round-win with his quickest run of the weekend, a 5.90 at 243 mph. Hairston trailed with a solid .056 light and a right-there 5.93.
The show came to an end in the semifinals when Whiteley, who almost never gets left on, even in qualifying, was too quick for his own good. He red-lighted by 0.25-second, sending door-car legend Todd Tutterow to his first career final, where he lost to championship runner-up Troy Coughlin.
Smith edged Coughlin for the 2016 J&A Service NHRA Pro Mod Series championship by an even points, 794 to 744. Steven and Jim Whiteley barely missed the Top 10, finishing 11th and 12th, respectively, with 340 and 307 points, just behind second-generation star Billy Glidden, who anchored the Top 10 with 380.