Steven Whiteley’s final start as a Pro Mod driver (at least for now) and father Jim Whiteley’s last this season both went down as an unmitigated success: Jim wound up 2019 on an ascendant arc with his finest performance of the season, and Steven, runner-up the last time out with one teen light after another, reached the quarterfinals in easily the YNot/J&A Service team’s best overall 1-2 finish all year.
Both ran strong in qualifying at the Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Steven with a best of 5.76, the same E.T. he ran under vastly different conditions in Charlotte, and Jim with exactly the same time he ran in Charlotte, right down to the thousandth of a second – 5.805. In the opening round of eliminations, Jim took a hard-fought holeshot win over Norwalk winner Khalid alBalooshi, 5.81 to 5.80, and Steven blew out Doug Winters with one of the best runs of the entire round, a 5.77 at 249 mph.
Just how tough NHRA Pro Mod racing can be was readily apparent in the quarterfinals when Jim fell to championship runner-up Todd Tutterow by just 27-thousandths of a second, 5.81 to 5.83. Steven, facing recent U.S. Nationals winner Mike Castellana two minutes later in the same lane, ran better than six of the other seven drivers that round, another 5.77 at 249 mph that left him just short of Castellana’s sinister black Camaro, which moved on with a 5.75/249.
“I’m done,” said Steven, who, by going rounds for the second race in a row while former Bristol winner Bob Rahaim lost first round for the fourth straight, cracked the season-ending Top 10. “As of right now, spending time with my family and kicking ass at work means more to me than running all over the country racing a Pro Mod car. As much as I love it, Pro Mod has nothing on being with your family.”