The inaugural Dodge NHRA Indy Nationals, a pseudo-national event staged at half-speed in the heart of the Coronavirus panic, didn’t quite feel like a national event, and Jim Whiteley didn’t quite feel like himself behind the wheel of his ’63 Corvette. Whiteley, who almost never loses on a holeshot – or even gets left on, for that matter – lost on a holeshot.

“I just lost focus that time,” said the two-time world champ of by far the worst light of his entire career, an unimaginable .313 in the second round against 2018 series champ Mike Janis. A reaction time half that bad (.157) would’ve been easily the worst light Whiteley ever had, Pro Mod or otherwise, but he got caught off guard that time and Janis had it the instant he launched with a .035 light, advancing with a passable 5.97 at 240 mph. “I don’t know what the hell I was looking at up there,” Whiteley said, laughing. “All of a sudden I was staged, the Tree came on, and I thought, ‘I should probably leave now.’ “

Until the Tree flashed, everything had been going just fine. Whiteley wheeled the J&A Service/YNot Racing ‘Vette to a competitive 5.85 in the first pair of the first session of Pro Mod qualifying and wasted Pro Mod/Funny Car driver Chad Green in the first round of eliminations, leaving first and leading wire to wire, 5.88/241 to 7.14/138. With fields this tight there really are no underdogs, but both he and Janis technically “upset” higher-qualified drivers in the first round, Whiteley over No. 5 qualifier Green with a 5.88 and Janis over No. 4 Jeff Jones with a 5.94.

With no better option than to flush the whole forgettable weekend in this utterly forgettable year, Whiteley is shifting his focus to the Midwest Drag Racing Series’ Summer Speed Spectacular next weekend in St. Louis. He’ll jump into “Stevie Fast’s” world-famous “Shadow 2.0” and Jackson will test the viability of a torque-converter/automatic-transmission setup in Annie Whiteley’s record-holding Top Alcohol Funny Car.