With a .008 reaction time on his first hit in years, Steven Whiteley made a triumphant return to Pro Mod at the Mid-West Drag Series’ Xtreme Raceway Park season opener. “It felt like I was in the car last week,” he said. “Not this car. This thing is an animal – it carries the front end 400 feet every time. This is gonnatake a little getting used to.”
The former NHRA national event champion, who will compete exclusively on the MWDRS tour from now on, qualified high and went rounds in his first outing since the final race of the 2019 NHRA campaign, the Dodge Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where he locked down a Top 10 finish in the NHRA standings. “There was no ‘a-ha’ moment where I knew I was coming back,” Whiteley said. “I just knew I was never going back to NHRA. This Mid-West deal just fits. I can race with my whole family, and I love running the eighth-mile. Always have. I’ve done PDRA stuff, the Snowbirds, the Street Car Super Nationals, and the Bradenton season opener, and I’ve always loved this style of racing.”
After a few laps to “knock the cobwebs off,” as he termed it, Whiteley wheeled father Jim Whiteley’s Brandon Snider-tuned ’69 Camaro to three remarkably consistent qualifying times: 3.62, 3.61, and 3.61, all at from 207 to 209 mph. He qualified fifth for a record field that attracted 29 entries and dispatched Jerry Hunt’s fine 3.69/203 in the first round with a superior 3.66/206, then had to step off the throttle in the quarterfinals, nullifying what would have been a sure win over Taylor Lastor.
“The car was moving to the right,” Whiteley said. “It’s going, going, going, and the front end’s in the air, so there’s nothing you can do about it. There comes a point when you have to lift. It’s not my car – it’s my dad’s. That’s always in the back of your mind.” With two choices – lift and lose or plow into the wall, be disqualified, and lose – Whiteley took his foot out of the throttle, coasting to a 5.05 at 95 mph, while Lastor gratefully scooped up the round-win with just a 3.90, then broke on the burnout next round.