Steven Whiteley persevered through rain-shortened preliminaries to once again qualify high in the Pro Mod field, as he has every race since he debuted his 5.7-second Camaro, only to bow out early in eliminations. The second-generation racer, who has yet to miss the top half of the field since debuting a new Jerry Haas-built piece last month in Kansas, took the provisional pole with an off-the trailer 5.79 at 251 mph and eventually landed in the No. 6 spot with that time.
Rain stopped the action six different times Saturday and trimmed qualifying from the usual four sessions to just two. In the first round of eliminations early Sunday morning, in just his second run all weekend in the left lane, Whiteley faced nemesis Todd Tutterow, who had upset him from the No. 16 a week earlier in Bristol. Tutterow, as experienced as anyone in the J&A Service Pro Mod Series and a known leaver, cut a near-perfect .005 reaction time, but by then the outcome of this one had already been decided.
“That third pedal makes driving these cars a little harder, doesn’t it?” asked Whiteley, who disqualified himself with a rare foul start. “I knew Todd was good on the Tree, so I was hanging on the pedal with just my big toe like I’ve done a million times before. It came off the clutch and I tried to save it, but I rolled the beams.” Tutterow rattled the tires in low gear, lifted, got back on the gas, and sped to a winning 6.51 at 240 mph while an aggravated Whiteley coasted across the stripe at 68 mph nine seconds later with a shut-off 14.28.
“I double-clutched, and when I got back on the throttle it picked the front end up,” said Whiteley, who’ll have two months to think about it before the tour resumes Labor Day weekend at the biggest race of all, the U.S. Nationals. “I heard him pedal it and thought, ‘Here’s my opportunity.’ Then it was like, ‘Oh, wait, there is no opportunity – I already red-lighted.’ It leaves a pretty sour taste in your mouth, trust me. I don’t think I’ve ever been this mad at myself.”