As the back-loaded Mid-West Drag Racing Series season barrels toward another nail-biting conclusion, Jim Whiteley kept himself in contention for the 2021 Pro Mod championship, barely, with a huge weekend at Tulsa Raceway Park.
Inclement weather this summer postponed multiple events, forcing MWDRS officials to make the Throwdown in T-Town, already one of the biggest events on the calendar, a doubleheader – three days, two races, double the points, and double the purse for the same travel. Whiteley starred all weekend, driving his supercharged split-window Corvette to both finals, but both times he came away empty-handed, with no wins and two more runner-ups.
The two-time NHRA Top Alcohol Dragster world champ, 23-7 in national event finals in that category and 2-0 lifetime in NHRA Pro Mod finals, collected more round-wins over the extended weekend (six) than anyone, but he still can’t seem to buy a MWDRS win. He finished second for the second and third times this season, narrowly red-lighting in the Friday final against points leader Joey Oksas, and, for once, flat-out getting outrun in the Saturday final against series founder Keith Haney.
In the first race, held Thursday and Friday, Whiteley led all qualifiers with a 3.709, two-thousandths of a second ahead of Ed Thornton’s 3.711 but 18 mph slower on the top end, 219 to 201. He plowed through Chris Juliano, Rob Gallegos, and Haney in the preliminary rounds, but, plagued by -.00 red-lights all year, was undone by another one in the final. An infuriating -.003 foul start nullified his excellent 3.69/203 and made a winner of Oksas’ early-shutoff 4.14/134.
Qualifying for the second race commenced immediately, and when it was over Whiteley was third in the order and well on his way to another final-round appearance. Haney entered eliminations with the upper hand, No. 1 with a 3.67 that placed him just ahead of the matching 3.69s of Oksas, Whiteley, and 2020 series champ Ron Muenks.
Whiteley ran quicker than anybody in the opening round (3.70), then proceeded to erase Zach Barklage in the quarterfinals and, for easily his biggest round-win of the 2021 MWDRS season, Oksas in a crucial semifinal showdown that made him the first to beat the suddenly unbeatable upstart in the past 14 rounds.
In the final round opposite Haney, Whiteley rolled in first, turned it green, and was right there all the way with a strong 3.68/202, but Haney’s sinister-looking nitrous-powered machine got around him at the top end with a superior 3.67/207, relegating Whiteley to runner-up for the third time in MWDRS competition this year.