In the final race of the 2018 J&A Service NHRA Pro Mod tour, where Richmond winner Mike Janis was crowned champion when three-time series champion Rickie Smith went down in round two, Jim and Steven Whiteley wrapped up their seasons with solid performances. Steven qualified way up at the top, in the No. 4 position, with a 5.77, and Jim did better than 22 of the 26 teams at the Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, advancing to the quarterfinals.
“I guess 5.77’s a good number for us,” Steven said. “That’s what we ran in the final round last year at Gainesville, and with the air up here in the mountains, that’s a way better run than a .77 in Gainesville. Pro Mod is so tough. You run within a tenth and a half of low E.T. in some classes, at least you’re going to get to race, maybe go a round in eliminations. A tenth and half from the No. 1 qualifier in Pro Mod means you’re not even close to making the show. 5.77 is a baller run, but when guys are running low .70s, it’s almost like, ‘.77? Thanks for playing.’ ”
Another 5.77 in the first round would have had Whiteley right in the thick of it against opponent Michael Biehle’s virtually identical 5.76, but Whiteley’s Camaro refused to cooperate, taking him the long way down the quarter-mile and he eventually forcing him to lift. “It just drove the tire off,” he said. “This was the first race in a long time – like, maybe two years – when I made it down all four times in qualifying, and I was really excited for the first round. First round sucks. I hate it – I think everybody does – and when it takes the tire off like that, you just think, ‘Seriously?’ I went to get back on it and saw him way out there and just thought, ‘Forget it. I know we weren’t stellar, weren’t in the low .70s, but we were right there all weekend, running good every time. Going up there for first round, I thought, ‘I have a bracket car. This is something I can work with.’ I really thought we could run .76, .77 all day long.”
Team leader Jim Whiteley didn’t run as quick but fared far better, going from the No. 15 qualifying position to the middle rounds with a pair of low 5.80s in eliminations. In the first round, his 5.84 was enough to take out wily veteran Todd Tutterow, who flickered the stage light, confusing NHRA’s autostart system into turning on the Tree right as his car rocked back out of the beams for a red-light start. A similar 5.82 in the second round, even when launched by a superior .031 reaction time, wasn’t enough to hold off Brazilian Sidnei Frigo, who advanced with a 5.75 and went on to his first Pro Mod victory with identical runs in the semifinals and final.