In the first round of the Summit Nationals, in one of the biggest rounds of his career, two-time NHRA Pro Mod winner Jim Whiteley outdrove the toughest possible opponent:  his own crew chief, reigning NHRA world champion Stevie Jackson. Whiteley qualified just 12th and “Stevie Fast” was seven spots ahead in the No. 5 position, but Whiteley had this one all the way – just as Jackson feared he would.

“Stevie said before we went up there, ‘I tuned this thing to run as good as my car,’ ” Whiteley said. “He told [his crew chief] Billy [Stocklin], ‘This thing better run good, because my driver [Whiteley] is better than your driver [himself]. I hollered at Stevie’s crew in the lanes, ‘Look that thing over really good because this is the last time you’re gonna be up here this weekend.’ “

It was. Jackson and Whiteley staged almost simultaneously, Jackson was on time with a .043 reaction time, but Whiteley, one of the few Pro Mod drivers who doesn’t have a losing record against “Stevie Fast,” left him sitting there with a .029. “We left, and I didn’t see him,” said Whiteley, who won Pro Mod at Houston in 2016 and 2018. “Second gear, third gear … I still didn’t see him, and I started to think, ‘We might just have a shot at this deal…’ ” He got him on a holeshot, 5.85-5.84, and as they flashed across the finish line at nearly 250 mph, the cars were separated by a mere two-thousandths of a second.

In the quarterfinals, mechanical difficulties dragged Whiteley’s J&A Service/YNot Racing ’69 Camaro quarter-mile car through the beams opposite veteran Doug Winters, bringing to an end a solid showing highlighted by full pulls in all three qualifying sessions (5.93-5.87-5.87) and perhaps his biggest round-win since the Houston final in April 2018.

“We aren’t running all the NHRA races this year,” said Whiteley, who was making just his second appearance on the NHRA tour this season. “We’re not in the hunt – we’re just here to play. But from now on, this car is going to be as quick as Stevie’s and Brandon [Snider]’s cars. It better be.”