0-2 in Friday qualifying and 2-for-2 Saturday, former Gatornationals winner Steven Whiteley was on the upswing entering NHRA Midwest Nationals eliminations. Following a shut-off 6.33 at 167 mph on his initial attempt Friday afternoon with his completely rebuilt ’18 Camaro and a shake-plagued 10.21 that evening, Whiteley, the only Pro Mod driver not to put up a clean run Friday, unloaded a 5.84 at 247 mph in Saturday morning in Q3 to shoot from dead last to the fast half of the field.
In the fourth and final qualifying session, opponent Mike Castellana, coming off a victory at the biggest race of the season, the U.S. Nationals, did the same thing: catapulted himself from 19th and last all the way to the top half. Whiteley wasn’t far behind with his quickest run of the weekend, a competitive 5.81/246 that moved from 14th to 13th and pitted him against quick-leaving Brandon Snider in the first round of eliminations.
Snider was on time with a .052 reaction time, but Whiteley, who leaves first 78% of the time, was literally twice as quick with a killer .026. The lead didn’t last long when he shook immediately and Snider got by him not far past the Tree for a 5.77/247 win. The YNot/J&A Service driver could have won on a holeshot with anything better than a 5.797 but had to lift long before reaction times came into play.
“It wasn’t moving fast enough when the power came in – it already had a weak shake to begin with,” Whiteley said. “I don’t like pedalfests. That’s not my thing – that’s when you wreck. Maybe I could’ve stayed in it, maybe not. It made a big move and I didn’t like it, I know that. When that happened, I was like ‘Yeah, I’m done.’ “