Steven Whiteley’s march to the 2023 Mid-West Drag Racing Series championship continued at Worldwide Technology Raceway with a dream weekend in which teammate Brandon Snider (whose points count just the same as if Whiteley was driving) made the final of the rescheduled Night of Fire & Thunder Friday night and Whiteley followed with a huge Heads-Up Hootenanny win on Saturday.

“It’s been a great season,” Whiteley said. “We started coming on strong the last two races of ’22 – we probably would’ve won Tulsa if we hadn’t kept shredding all those blower belts – and it’s just carried right over to this year.” Following Whiteley’s runner-up in the season-opening Chicago-Style Second Chance Shootout at the Drag Illustrated World Series of Pro Mod, it’s been just one final after another: Snider won Tulsa, Whiteley was runner-up in Noble, Snider finished second here, and now Whiteley has 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 round 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 invaluable crew chief, was ready for what both knew was the biggest round of the season.

Snider, who dumped Haney Friday night in a crucial semifinal decision, delivered Whiteley’s best run of eliminations to that point, and Whiteley did his part behind the wheel, nailing Haney at the line and leading him 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 for our team,” Whiteley said. “Haney and I have had a rivalry going on all year, the announcers were playing it up, the crowd was into it, and we got it done. Again. Brandon beat him Friday and I got him Saturday.”

In the final, Whiteley sealed the deal with a 3.62/208 win over the world-famous turbocharged ’69 Camaro of No. 1 qualifier Mark Micke, who was coming off a 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 opposite 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 the last three races. We’ve just got to keep the momentum going and stay ahead of Haney.”