Last time, it was six. This time, it was just two – the total thousandths a second from the time Jim Whiteley blasted off the starting line until the green light came on to signal the start of the race.
Red-lighting at the Xtreme Texas Nationals in Ferris, Texas was probably worse – that one was a final. This weekend, at the Throw Down at T-Town in Tulsa, the foul that disqualified Whiteley’s J&A Service/YNot Racing team came in the semifinals – not that that made losing any less painless.
“It was dark, I was amped up, I left, and it came up red,” Whiteley explained. “It’s not like I just took off – I saw yellow.” Based on his reaction times in the first two rounds, there’s no doubt.
In contention for the Mid-West Drag Racing Series Pro Mod championship since the start of the season, Whiteley qualified 3rd of 25 entrants at Tulsa Raceway Park with a 3.71 at 203.65 mph on the eighth-mile course, right behind No. 1 Joey Oksas and former series champion Aaron Wells. With door-car superstar “Stevie Fast” Jackson on hand to tune, he then proceeded to battle his way through first- and second-round wins over Brian Lewis, 3.78/197 to 3.93/192, and Tommy Cunningham, who red-lighted, 3.76/199 to 3.79/194.
“Driving this car is the most fun you could ever have,” Whiteley said. “It leaves like a Top Fuel car – it carries the front end, you’re looking at the sky, and it doesn’t come down for a long, long time. You hit 2nd gear, hit 3rd, and before you know it, the front end is setting down and there went the finish line.”
It all came apart in the semifinals against Jon Stouffer, when Whiteley barely, barely came up red, invalidating a potentially winning run. Both drivers ran 3.74s, and with a reaction time anywhere on the green side of the Tree, he’d have been in another final. “All this car needs is a delay box,” Whiteley concluded. “I mean, it’s not like they’re illegal – other guys have been running them for years. And the next time I run this car at night, trust me, it’ll have one.”