Steven Whiteley pulled off one of the biggest wins of his Pro Mod career at the Throwdown at T-Town, resurrecting his once-dwindling championship hopes with a narrow semifinal win over yearlong points leader Keith Haney and a crucial final-round decision over Blake Housley. “That,” said Whiteley, whose last race, at Martin, Mich., ended in a crash, “was big.”
Just when it seemed he was out of contention for the Mid-West Drag Series title, Whiteley thrust himself back into it, scoring in the unfamiliar confines of father Jim’s ’63 split-window Corvette. “It’s just messed up, trying to drive a different car like this,” he said. “They’re both Tommy Mauney cars, yeah, but everything’s in a different position in this car. You’re laid back more in the seat, it’s narrower, the trans-brake button is in wrong spot, the pedals are longer … nothing is where it should be.”
As big an obstacle as that clearly was – and as tough as it was to push aside the anxiety from crashing the last time he went down the track – it didn’t keep Whiteley from victory. He and crew chief/co-driver Brandon Snider overcame early qualifying struggles to qualify No. 1 with a 3.63, breezed through the first round, and trounced Tony “Sandman” Williams in the second, 3.64 to 5.88, to set up what he termed “the round of the year,” his semifinal showdown with Haney.
“That was just an awesome race,” Whiteley said. “Three-thousandths of a second in the lights.” He was quicker than Haney off the line and quicker and faster downtrack (barely), moving first by a thousandth of a second, .064 to .065, and outrunning Haney by two-thousandths, 3.617 to 3.619, with a massive top-end charge, 209 mph to 205. Haney was first to the 330-foot mark, 2.41 to 2.43, so it was only in the last few hundred feet that the J&A Service/YNot Racing team’s aging Corvette prevailed.
“This thing was running 209 mph all weekend,” Whiteley said. “209 is pretty mean for a door car. I mean, ’63 Corvettes aren’t the most aerodynamic cars out there, you know? The track was really cooling off for the final and groove was getting tight, so we made sure the track was prepped the same as it was for the semi’s and stayed aggressive with the tune-up. We didn’t back it off at all – just sent it – and hoped the car would run the same as it did.”
It ran exactly as it had a round earlier, another 3.61 at 209 mph, to stop Housley and give Whiteley new life in the championship chase. “I’m still not used to this car,” he said, “but I don’t have the luxury of having everything just the way I want it anymore. We’re trying to win a championship. At some point, you’ve got to just get in and go.”