Steven Whiteley may have been gone by the quarterfinals at the Midwest Nationals, but not before he knocked out by far the greatest series of runs in J&A Service/YNot team history – 5.79, 5.75, 5.77, a career-best 5.74, and another 5.77 Sunday in the heat.

Just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis in Madison, Ill., almost in the shadows of the arch, Whiteley, who’d been beaten on a holeshot only one other time in his career, lost to eventual winner and new points leader Troy Coughlin in the second round of eliminations, 5.78 to 5.77. The .77 was low e.t. of the round, and his .74 in a first-round win over Danny Rowe was just a thousandth of a second from low e.t. of all of eliminations.

“That run against Troy would have been a nice time to run the .74, but sometimes you get so focused on staging as shallow as you can that you don’t cut as good a light as you could’ve,” said Whiteley, who fell short by just .026-second. “A .061 light – that’s slow for me. I mean, .029 was the worst I had in all four rounds in Denver. What happened to that guy? I never saw Troy. I didn’t look over – with blinders on your visor you can’t see anything anyway – but I never saw him till he went by me after the laundry was out.”

Whiteley, who skipped the last race, Charlotte, to be home with wife Delaina for the birth of their daughter, Bayslei, picked up right where he left off at Indy, hitting a 5.79 off the trailer for the No. 2 spot at the time and only running better from there. “Hands down, this is the best we’ve ever run,” he said. “You talk about a kick in the ass … I can’t believe I lost on a holeshot. Running the second round on Sunday makes it almost like another first round. There’s that pressure, those first-round jitters … I wish we ran all four rounds on one day – that’s when you can really get in a rhythm.”

The St. Louis race was the quickest race in the history of the J&A Service Pro Mod Series, with a bump of 5.80-flat. Team leader Jim Whiteley came through in the clutch with a 5.803 in last-shot qualifying, and the most recent winner on tour, Jonathan Gray, didn’t even make the cut, missing with a 5.807 that would have qualified for any other race ever.

“A 5.80 bump – that’s ridiculous,” Whiteley said. “We qualified No. 1 here just a couple years ago with a 5.84. Today, a 5.84 gets you nothing. I hate losing – I had the best car on race day and didn’t get it done – but I’m more impressed with the team running a 5.77 Sunday in the heat than I am with running our best ever, 5.74, in better conditions. I just want to get to Vegas for the last race of the season, kick ass, get back in the top five, and finish out the best year we’ve ever had.”