Steven Whiteley’s relentless march to the 2023 Mid-West Drag Racing Series championship continued at Worldwide Technology Raceway in a dream weekend in which teammate Brandon Snider (whose points count just the same as if Whiteley himself was driving) made the final of the rescheduled Night of Fire & Thunder Friday night and Whiteley followed with a huge Heads-Up Hootenanny victory on Saturday.
“It’s been a great season,” Whiteley said. “We started coming on strong at the last two races of ’22 – we probably would’ve won Tulsa if we hadn’t shredded all those blower belts – and it’s carried right over to this year.” Since Whiteley finished second in the Chicago-Style Second Chance Shootout at the season-opening Drag Illustrated World Series of Pro Mod, it’s been one final after another: Snider won Tulsa, Whiteley made the final in Noble, Snider got second here, and Whiteley just brought down his biggest win since his career breakthrough at the 2017 NHRA Gatornationals.
Driving father Jim’s immaculate J&A Service ’69 Camaro, Whiteley qualified No. 2 and sailed through the first two rounds of eliminations, dispatching overmatched Robbie Vander Woude’s ’00 Camaro, 3.69/206 to 4.00/194, and Blake Housley’s classic ’41 Willys, 3.66/206 to 3.82/192. The stakes went way up in the semifinals against championship rival Keith Haney, and Snider, Whiteley’s irreplaceable crew chief, was ready for what both knew would be their biggest round so far this season.
Snider, who’d dumped Haney Friday night in a crucial semifinal decision, dialed up Whiteley’s best run of eliminations to that point, and Whiteley did his part behind the wheel, nailing Haney at the line and leading wire to wire for a 3.63/207 to 3.65/206 win that propelled the team into its fifth final of 2023. “That was huge,” Whiteley said. “Haney and I have had a rivalry going all year, the announcers were really playing it up, the crowd was into it, and we got it done again. Brandon beat him Friday night and I got him tonight.”
In the final, Whiteley produced his best run of the weekend, a 3.62/208, against the 217-mph turbocharged ’69 Camaro of No. 1 qualifier Mark Micke, who was coming off a big win the previous evening. Micke blew the engine in a huge cloud of smoke and never came around Whiteley, as he had the night before against Snider. “There was just smoke everywhere,” Whiteley said. “I could see it from inside the car. We’re leading the championship right now and really focused on these last three races. We just have to keep the momentum going.”