What had already been a lousy weekend for Steven Whiteley turned downright dreadful in the first round of Pro Mod eliminations at U.S. 131 Dragway. Disaster struck when Whiteley, who, along with driver/tuner Brandon Snider, has basically been to the final round of every race all year, crashed into Ron Muenks.
Whiteley tested well leading up to the Mid-West Drag Racing Series’ U.S. 131 Nationals in tiny Martin, Mich., but when the race officially began, “everything went to hell,” as he tersely remarked. “We really struggled in qualifying,” he said. “Actually, it was more than ‘struggling.’ It was a complete disaster.” Tenth and last in the short 10-car field with an aggregate best of 4.14 at 126 mph, he lined up to face Muenks, the No. 1 qualifier with an outstanding 3.62/206.
Whiteley, who got plowed into by veteran Todd Tutterow in the first round of the 2019 NHRA Heartland Nationals in Topeka, became embroiled in another two-car crash here, but this one was nothing like Topeka. It was more reminiscent of his qualifying accident at the NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway in 2017.
“It was exactly like Atlanta, actually,” Whiteley said, disgusted. “That’s the first thing I thought when it happened: ‘Atlanta…’ I was in the right lane, just like before, and the car kept working its way over to the right, just like before. I got the front end to come down, and then the car darted left on me.
“I thought I had it,” Whiteley said. “Pulling the chutes save it – I thought. The car was already coming back around and straightening itself out, and I was just going to barely miss him. I knew I could get the front end pointed in the right direction and figured the worst that could happen was that I might pancake the wall, but I got him right between the rear wheel and the spoiler. All of a sudden, he was right there, and there was nothing I could do about it.”
As if tearing up their beautiful ’69 Camaro wasn’t awful enough, this one was doubly tough for Whiteley and the J&A Service/YNot Racing team. On the odd 10-car ladder, the winner of that first-round match with Muenks would have had a second-round bye into the semifinals, and Whiteley’s biggest rival, points leader Keith Haney, capitalized fully by going on to win the race.