Steven Whiteley doesn’t particularly care who drives his car – talented driver/tuner Brandon Snider or him. To him, it still it isn’t that strange to stand on the starting line and watch his car charge down the track with someone else at the wheel.

“It really isn’t,” Whiteley insisted. “I get asked that a lot, but, first of all, it’s not my car – it’s my dad’s. I know Brandon’s driving style, and he’s good. Really good. He’s a lot better than I ever was. I’ll stage and wonder, ‘Did I do this right? Did I do that right? Is this the right rpm?’ He never thinks anything like that.”

At the rain-delayed Night of Fire & Thunder, contested in conjunction with the originally scheduled Heads-Up Hootenanny, Snider pulled off something even more important than winning: he took out rival Keith Haney, the biggest obstacle between Whiteley and his first Mid-West Drag Racing Series championship.

Snider proved his worth from the start, six weeks ago on the original date, when he tuned and drove the car to the No. 1 spot by more than a tenth and a half with a 3.69 at 205 mph, securing a first-round bye in the 13-car field. On that single, he came within thousandths of a second of low E.T. of the round with a 3.72/203, second only to hard-charging Mark Micke’s 3.71 at 215 mph, which was top speed of the meet by nearly 10 mph.

It set up a massive quarterfinal clash with Haney, which Snider won with a better light (.063 to .075) and a quicker (3.64 to 3.70) and faster (208 mph to 201 mph) pass. “The way he tunes the car shows how much more analytical he is than I am,” Whiteley modestly said. “I’m just a driver. I let go of the trans-brake button and send it, then tell Brandon what I felt when I get out of the car. He knows what’s going on the whole time – in or out of the seat.”

Snider then mowed down Jerry Hunter in the semi’s, 3.69/207 to Hunter’s slowing 3.85/187, but Micke grabbed the upper hand for the final on a 3.65/217 single. Picking up significantly to a 3.66/207, Snider gave the J&A Service/YNot Racing team a real chance in the final, but Micke ran him down before the eighth-mile with a superior 3.64/217.

“Brandon was winning,” Whiteley said, “but against that turbo car there’s not much you can do after half-track. He outran us, but that wasn’t the big thing for us this weekend. Beating Haney was the big thing, and Brandon beat him.”