He may have started at the bottom, but when the figurative smoke cleared, it was Jim Whiteley who stood tall, collecting the second victory of his escalating Top Alcohol Funny Car career. “It felt great,” said the 25-time NHRA national event winner of his latest triumph on the Mid-West Drag Racing Series tour. “It felt as good as any race I’ve ever won.”
The four-car field just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis at Worldwide Technology Raceway was, in a word, tight. Reigning NHRA Division 3 Top Alcohol Funny Car champion Phil Esz paced the field and Whiteley was dead last, but they were separated by just six-hundredths of a second, from Esz’s No. 1 3.63 at 208.75 mph to Whiteley’s fourth-best 3.69 at 207.88. In between were Jim’s wife Annie and the vaunted family team of veteran Steve Macklyn.
In a first-round battle of converter cars, Whiteley, who also scored at the final race of the 2022 MWDRS tour, the Xtreme Texas World Finals in Ferris, Texas, began his march to the $10,000 top prize with a close holeshot win over Esz. With a .059 reaction time Esz was hardly late, but Whiteley got the drop on him with a .045 and held him off at the eighth-mile stripe to win a close one, 3.64/207 to Esz’s slightly quicker 3.63/207. The margin of victory was just five-thousandths of a second.
Macklyn won the other first-round match, also on a holeshot, in another tight race against Annie. She was slightly quicker with a 3.67 at 209.72 mph – the fastest speed of eliminations – but couldn’t quite get around Macklyn’s quicker-leaving 3.68 at 203 mph. No such scenario played out in the final. Whiteley left on Macklyn by a hair, .056 to .059, and ran quicker and faster, too, with a 3.63 at 207 mph to Macklyn’s 3.67 at 202, making Whiteley a multiple major-event winner in all three alcohol categories – Top Alcohol Dragster, Pro Mod, and now Top Alcohol Funny Car.