A disappointing 28th and 29th in the order entering second-day qualifying for the 2019 J&A Service/Pro Mod season opener with respective bests of 8.63 and 10.98, Jim and Steven Whiteley veered in opposite directions. Jim continued on the same trajectory, getting loose and clicking it early for the third time in a row, but son Steven stepped up dramatically to a 5.76 at more than 252 mph that catapulted him all the way to the No. 4 spot on the provisional grid.
Jim’s killer ’69 Chevelle finally made a representative run in last-shot qualifying, an early-shutoff 5.92 that still wasn’t quick enough to make the cut. The two-time world champion and two-time event winner in Pro Mod ended up 26th of 29 in the final order, ahead of friend Clint Satterfield, veteran Chip King, and Mike Castellana, who led the standings for much of the 2017 but crashed this weekend in his first appearance without many-time TAFC world champion Frank Manzo as his crew chief.
Steven made another quantum leap forward in that session, to a blistering 5.71 at 252.28 mph that surprisingly was good for only the No. 9 spot in the quickest field ever (bump: 5.753). “Stevie Fast” Jackson set the pace with the best NHRA Pro Mod run of all time (5.665), Jose Gonzalez set the national speed record (259.31 mph), and six drivers (Steve Matusek, Sidnei Frigo, Pete Farber, Doug Winters, Alex Laughlin, and Erica Enders) ran in the 5.70s and still didn’t qualify.
Steven, who picked up the first national event title of his career at this race in 2017, won the first round over former Top 5 driver Bob Rahaim, who qualified a few thousandths of a second of him with a nearly identical 5.713. The YNot driver coasted across the finish line with a 6.17 at just 157 mph but still advanced easily when Rahaim went into violent shake early in the run and had to lift. He was unable to appear for the second round against “Stevie Fast,” who would go on to lose the final on a holeshot by mentor Todd Tutterow despite resetting his own national record with an unbelievable 5.643.