After reaching the semifinals for the second time in a row and the third time in four races this season, Pro Mod star Steven Whiteley finds himself second in the J&A Service standings. Whiteley, who won the season opener in Gainesville, knocked off former national record holder Jonathan Gray in the first round of the NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway and former world champ Khalid Balooshi in the semifinals before losing to eventual winner Mike Castellana, the only driver ahead of him in the standings, in a photo-finish semifinal matchup.
“I should’ve had a better light that time, that’s all there is to it,” said Whiteley, who was anything but late with a solid .060 reaction time that gave him an imperceptible early lead on Castellana’s similar .065. They were locked side by side until the end of the quarter-mile, where Whiteley’s J&A Service/YNot Cadillac CTS came up five-thousandths of a second short, 5.77 to 5.78. The margin at the stripe was just 22 inches.
“If I would’ve pulled a .030 light or even a .040 that, we would’ve won,” said Whiteley, who actually just needed anything quicker than a .055. He was consistent throughout eliminations, with reaction times of .064, .058, and .060, E.T.s of 5.83, 5.82, and 5.78, and speeds of 248, 249, and 250 mph.
“Things are definitely going in the right direction, and ever since Gainesville there’s just been a new motivation around the team that we’ve never experienced before,” Whiteley said. “There’s a lot of pressure on our shoulders – the good kind, the kind you put on yourself. The way all these cars are running now, you really have to go for it every single time. If you don’t, you’re not going anywhere. I felt pretty good coming into Atlanta, but now, I feel better about this team than I’ve ever felt before – even better than when we won Gainesville.”