Hot off the promising debut of his new Camaro in Topeka, Steven Whiteley starred in qualifying at the Virginia Nationals in Richmond, setting top speed at 252.71 mph and claiming the No. 5 spot with a 5.82. “Everything we learned off the old car we applied to the Camaro,” he said of the venerable Cadillac he drove to victory last year in Gainesville. “We ran the wheels off that old car – it had 960-some runs on it – but this new car has development from Pro Stock.”

The new Camaro went 0-for-2 on Friday, shaking on the first run and being pushed off the starting line on the second, but hopes were high for Sunday’s eliminations after Whiteley pounded out back-to-back 5.82s in Saturday’s qualifying sessions, first a 5.828 and then a 5.821 late in the day after a storm blew through and drastically changed the conditions. “Jeff [Perley, Whiteley’s crew chief and a key member of several championship Pro Stock teams] figured out a lot on his own and brought it to this team. A lot of what we’ve done is what Pro Stock guys were doing – Jeff just applied it to Pro Mod before other people got on to it.”

Right when a long run in eliminations seemed a foregone conclusion, Whiteley was stopped in the first round by Chicago-area driver Dan Stevenson, who stepped up to a 5.81 while Whiteley’s car inexplicably slowed from earlier in the weekend. The team underestimated the completely resurfaced Virginia Motorsports Park quarter-mile, and Whiteley, who had never lost to Stevenson, slipped to a disappointing 5.89. “We just missed it on the tune-up,” he said. “No excuses – there was a lot more out there, and we didn’t realize it.”