It’s been three years since Steven Whiteley last raced at World Wide Technology Raceway just outside St. Louis. Back then, he was still hitting 250 mph on the quarter-mile and his opponent at that race, the 2019 NHRA Midwest Nationals, was, of all people, his crew chief today, Brandon Snider. (Snider won, but Whiteley had him on the Tree.)
Now, the two work together, Snider making all the calls and Whiteley behind the wheel, and they can almost always be found in the upper reaches of the qualifying order. At the Mid-West Drag Racing Series’ Summer Speed Spectacular, the two again had the J&A Service/YNot Racing team’s spotless ’69 Camaro in the fast half of the field, but not as close to the top as usual – just seventh, with 3.770 at 201.16.
“We struggled all weekend,” Whiteley admitted. “The whole team did, really – all three of us. The track stumped us. The heat was part of it, sure, but all the other teams had to deal with it, too.” Nobody made it into the 3.60s, the whole top half of the field was in the .70s, and the first driver in the .80s, No. 10 qualifier Brian Lewis, was Whiteley’s first-round foe.
Long established as one of Pro Mod’s top leavers, regardless of the association, Whiteley had the best reaction time of all 16 drivers in the opening round, an outstanding .018. Lewis was right behind him with a .028 and matched his 3.813 qualifying time almost to the thousandth of a second for a winning 3.815 at 197.57 mph. Whiteley could’ve slowed down half a tenth and still won on a holeshot, but he fell way off, coasting across the eighth-mile mark with a just a 4.83 at about 100 mph for a dispiriting loss.
“It just took the tire off,” Whiteley said. “I don’t know what happened. This track whipped our asses all weekend. It was so hot, we’re just glad to get out of here. It’ll be nice to have some time off from racing to work and spend time with the family.”
One of the truly unique aspects of competing on the racer-friendly MWDRS tour is the lengthy three-month summer break it affords teams, most of which are led by independent entrepreneurs who spend that time between races literally taking care of business. After this welcome respite, the season finishes with a flourish, a three-race stretch from Sept. 9 to Oct. 22 with stops in Martin, Mich., Tulsa, and Ferris, Texas.