Tag: 2015 (Page 1 of 3)

TAFC – POMONA 2015

If only she could’ve maintained the performance from her off-the-trailer qualifying pass at the NHRA Finals in Pomona, Calif., Annie Whiteley likely would’ve won the 2015 Top Alcohol Funny Car championship she seemed destined to win all year.

Whiteley, who won four races in seven final-round appearances this season and stood atop the national standings longer than any other driver, battled tire shake the rest of the way and eventually fell to Clint Thompson in the quarterfinals, allowing Sweden’s Jonnie Lindberg to slip past her by 12 points to win the title.

“That run probably hurt us more than it helped us,” Whiteley’s husband, two-time Top Alcohol Dragster world champ Jim Whiteley, said of her off-the-trailer 5.46 at nearly 267 mph. “I think it fooled us into thinking the track was different than it was. There was a whole lot of track out there this weekend.”

The run qualified Whiteley solidly in the No. 4 position and seemed to set her up for even better things in the remaining qualifying sessions and especially in eliminations, but her J&A Service/YNot Racing Camaro refused to cooperate on subsequent runs.

“It is what it is,” said Whiteley, who reclaimed the lead she lost to Lindberg two weeks earlier at the Toyota Nationals by winning the first round over veteran Steve Gasparrelli with a tire-shaking, backpedaling 6.07. “We never got hold of the track after that first run. No complaints, though. Look how the season started – not getting down the track run after run, barely qualifying at the first race (Phoenix). I’d say it turned out pretty good overall.”

TAFC – LAS VEGAS REGIONAL 2015

It won’t count toward the national championship because she’s already run the maximum number of regional events – five – but Annie Whiteley pounded out one good run after another at her favorite track, The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, at the final regional event of the season. As always, it was the toughest regional event of the entire season; 17 cars attempted to qualify for one of just eight spots, and the bump was one of the quickest of all time, 5.63.

Whiteley’s J&A Service/YNot Racing Camaro held down the No. 1 spot in Top Alcohol Funny Car until the final pair of the final session with a 5.49. No. 2 in the field when eliminations began, she ripped of a consistent 5.51 to take out defending event champ Ulf Leanders, then slipped to a tire-shaking 5.79 in the semifinals and fell to friend and Grand Junction, Colo., neighbor Terry Ruckman, the former Division 7 champ.

“It shook pretty hard that time, and there wasn’t much I could do,” Whiteley said. “It didn’t hurt us points-wise, but you never want to lose – ever. It was still a good weekend, though. We learned a lot about running the car in cold conditions, and that’s going to do nothing but help us down the road.”

Now the YNot team’s focus shifts to this weekend’s NHRA Finals in Pomona, Calif. One point out of the lead – 626 to 625 – with one race to go, she’ll overtake Sweden’s Jonnie Lindberg by winning just one round of eliminations. “It’s all right there for us,” she said. “I don’t want to think about points or anything like that. I’m just going to try to make each run like it’s a qualifying run and take it one round at a time. We’ve run good all year. Now we just need to do it one more time.”

PRO MOD – LAS VEGAS 2015

Steven Whiteley wrapped up the best season of his young Pro Mod career at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with his fourth late-round appearance in a row. Whiteley, coming off a No. 1 qualifying effort the last time out, at St. Louis, qualified high in the field again at the Toyota NHRA Nationals in Vegas and took a wild first-round win over Dan Stevenson before dropping a close quarterfinal match with eventual winner Khalid alBalooshi.

Whiteley put a holeshot on Stevenson with one of his best reaction times of the season, .030, and gutted out a hard-fought win when the car wanted to go every which way but straight. “I almost shut it off two times on that run,” said Whiteley, whose J&A Service/YNot Racing was loose throughout both first and second gear. “When it made it the first time, I thought, ‘OK – we’re good,’ and then I about had to shut it off again, but Dan was doing the same thing in the other lane.”

After winning that round with a 5.86 that actually turned out to be his quickest run of the weekend and qualifying sixth with a 5.87, Whiteley slipped to a 5.92 Sunday in the quarterfinals against alBalooshi, who was entrenched in the 5.80s throughout eliminations. “I short-shifted a little on that run,” he said, “and when you hit the first shift a little early, it’s like a timer goes off, and when that time’s up, you hit the next one a hair early, too. It’s a timing thing. I probably cost me three- or four-hundredths of a second.”

Whiteley finishes the season ranked 15th in points, just three points behind father Jim Whiteley, who missed the cut this weekend with his immaculate ’69 Chevelle. It was close – the bump was a 5.94, and Jim ran a best of 5.98.

“We’re all encouraged about 2016,” said Steven, who qualified in the top half of the field at the last four races in a row. “The car ran better and better as the year went on, and we’ll be running the CTS again all next year and in all of 2017. We’ve got a lot of good data now, and things have really turned around going into next year.”

TAFC – LAS VEGAS NATIONAL 2015

At The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where she has dominated Alcohol Funny Car racing since earning the first win of her career there in her 2012 rookie campaign, Annie Whiteley suffered one of her few early round losses ever in Las Vegas. The fourth-year pro, who swept both the national and regional events there earlier this season for her fifth and sixth career Vegas wins, went out in the first round.

Whiteley’s J&A Service/YNot Racing Camaro went into hard tire shake in low gear, and despite a quick pedal job, she was unable to run down Chris Marshall, coming up just 14-thousandths of a second short in the lights with a 5.71 – far from her outstanding qualifying effort. “I was catching him the whole time, and I really thought I was going to get there,” Whiteley said. “It shook at the top of low gear, and I thought I could drive through it. I kept thinking, ‘Come on, come on, we’re almost there,’ but I finally had to short-shift. You’ve basically got two options at that point – short-shift or pedal – and I finally had to hit the button at 8,100.”

Marshall shot into the lead and claimed by far the biggest win of his young career with a 5.74. “I didn’t know if I was going to catch him or not, but at least I gave myself half a shot at it,” said Whiteley, who crossed the finish line going a full 13 mph faster than Marshall, 260 to 247. It was a disappointing end to what had been a typically solid Vegas outing to that point. Whiteley qualified No. 5 with an excellent 5.558 at 263.20 mph.

Now the YNot team, which had topped the national rankings since Whiteley’s dominant victory at Woodburn four months ago, is second in the standings, just a single point behind Jonnie Lindberg, 626 to 625.

CORY REED’S PRO DEBUT SET FOR LAS VEGAS

Pro Stock Motorcycle’s next big star might just be former motocross racer Cory Reed, who will join three-time world champ Angelle Sampey on George and Jackie Bryce’s Star Racing team for the entire 2016 season and make his pro debut this weekend in Las Vegas.

Both racers will be fully sponsored by PSE, an equipment manufacturer for the oil-and-gas industry that specializes in efficient oil-and-water-separation equipment. “Star Racing has a great history, and we’re really looking forward to working with George, Jackie, Angelle, and the whole team,” said PSE owner Jim Whiteley.

Reed may be new to drag racing, but his family isn’t. His mom, Annie, is the No. 1 driver in Top Alcohol Funny Car this season, dad Jim is a two-time Top Alcohol Dragster world champ, and brother Steven just qualified No. 1 for Pro Mod at St. Louis. “Cory may not have accelerated like this before, but he’s a drag racer,” said Bryce, who has taught more than 900 students at his driving school. “Look at his family – drag racing is in their DNA. If you graphed his progress, it would be a line going up at a 45-degree angle, and he’s never quit gaining, right up to the last run he made. He’s the only student I’ve ever had who came here with no drag racing experience at all – he’d never even ridden on the street – but one of the toughest things I have to do is ‘un-teach’ bad habits, and he didn’t have any.”

The 22-year-old from Grand Junction, Colo., should be as ready as any rookie has ever been when qualifying begins for the Toyota NHRA Nationals in Las Vegas. He’s already made 75 laps on five different motorcycles at 10 different tracks and has numerous 6-second runs to his credit. “He’s the first guy who reminds me of the late, great John Myers,” said Bryce, who owns six career championships – three with Myers riding (1990-92-95) and three more with Sampey (2000-01-02).

“I’ve got 41 wins and three championships, and it’s not enough,” Sampey said. “It’s never enough. If I had 15 championships and 300 wins, it wouldn’t be enough. But the anxiety and the pressure I put on myself to win is gone now. I feel like I’m a better driver than I’ve ever been, and racing is so competitive right now. You have to be so precise in everything you do, from your reaction time to your shift points, and Cory already has that. He’s genuine, he’s soft-spoken, and he’s easy to get along with, just like John Myers and Antron Brown, and there’s no bigger compliment I could give him. The motorcycle doesn’t know who’s on top of it, and I strongly believe he’s going to be like them. He knew things before we even told him.”

Reed crewed for Sampey at every race this year, working side by side with crew chief Ken Johnson, assisting with everything from engine swaps and maintenance to setup and teardown. At Las Vegas, Sampey won’t compete – she’ll devote her full attention to coaching Reed in his debut.

“She’s taught me all about running your own race, staying focused on yourself and your routine, and not getting distracted,” said Reed, who broke his back, both wrists, an elbow, and a shoulder in seven years on the physically demanding motocross circuit. “I like this a lot better. It’s not as stressful and way more fun. It took a few runs to get used to the acceleration, but the speed has never bothered me – I like going fast.”

The Vegas race has already attracted 30 entries – more than any race in over a decade – but Reed remains unfazed. “It’s extra pressure, I guess, because about half the people won’t qualify, but I like competition,” he said. “I’m confident in myself and my team, and my goal is to qualify and win a round. I’m really looking forward to this.”

TAFC – DALLAS 2015

On the all-concrete quarter-mile at the Texas Motorplex, Annie Whiteley pounded out the quickest run of her four-year career to qualify high in the fastest field in Top Alcohol Funny Car history. A 5.45 at nearly 267 mph positioned her fifth in the Fall Nationals lineup, but an up-in-smoke 10.95 in the first round of eliminations knocked her out of the race. “I don’t know what it is, but Scott McVey is my kryptonite,” Whiteley said of the disappointing early exit. “That guy’s always had my number.”

Up till then, the incoming national points leader was headed for yet another late-round finish, maybe even an eighth final and fifth victory of 2015. Whiteley guided her YNot Racing/J&A Service Camaro to an off-the trailer 5.58/263 Friday that had her fourth on the provisional grid, then stepped way up to a 5.52/264 later that afternoon for No. 6. When conditions improved Saturday morning, she made an even bigger gain to a career-best 5.453/266.90, one of three 5.453s in that round.

When eliminations kicked off Saturday afternoon, Whiteley blasted off the line with one of the best 60-foot times any Alcohol Funny Car driver ever had, .920, but with the front end in the air and the car headed straight for the wall, she had no choice but to lift. “I left too high that time – that’s why the 60-foot time was so good – but there’s no way the car’s going to make it with that kind of wheel speed that early,” she said.

With three races left, including two at her best track on the tour, the Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Whiteley remains first in the national standings, where she’s been since July 19. Swede Jonnie Lindberg, who closed the gap slightly with a semifinal appearance at this race, is now 10 points back.

PRO MOD – ST. LOUIS 2015

In the finest performance of his young Pro Mod career, Steven Whiteley dominated qualifying at the NHRA Midwest Nationals in St. Louis, covering the entire field by the unheard-of margin of more than half a tenth for most of the weekend.

After an opening 5.83 at a career-best 249.07 mph earned the YNnot Racing/J&A Service team the early qualifying lead, Whiteley was on a single to close out the second session of qualifying. All he did was unload an unbelievable 5.820, the quickest run of his career, at an even better 249.35, the fastest speed of his career, that put him almost six-hundredths up on No. 2 qualifier Troy Coughlin Jr.’s 5.878.

“Both of those runs and this whole weekend was all about my guys,” Whiteley said. “We were struggling earlier this year, but they stayed with it and you can see the results. I didn’t know exactly what those runs were, but from inside the car I could tell they were really good because they felt just like a lot of great testing runs we’ve made this year.”

Whiteley just missed continuing the all-5.8 barrage with a 5.900 in the final session that actually was a positive despite being slower than previous efforts. “We tried to slow the car down that time,” he said. “We wanted to know that we could take a little out of it without getting into a weak-shake run that doesn’t make it down the track. The car did exactly what it was supposed to, and we felt ready for eliminations.”

Facing No. 16 qualifier Harold Martin, who was no slouch himself with a 5.94 that anchored yet another all-5-second field, Whiteley pounded out another 5.83, again at nearly 250 mph, for a train-length win. The weekend finally came to an end in the second round when he made his worst run of the weekend, a still-good 5.92, in a loss to eventual winner Mike Knowles’ nearly identical 5.91.

“He got out on me, and it screwed me up,” Whiteley admitted. “I short-shifted because I knew I was behind, or the car would’ve run another 5.80-something. That’s on me, but it was still a great weekend. I owe it all to my mom and dad and all my guys who’ve stuck it out and really got this car running the way it is.”

TAFC – WOODBURN 2015

Annie Whiteley’s march to her first Top Alcohol Funny Car championship continued at Woodburn, where she turned in yet another final-round performance, her seventh already this season. The only problem: with two wins and a runner-up already in regional competition, where only your best three finishes count toward your national points total, her lead would increase only with a win. Qualifying No. 1 and running low e.t. of all three rounds didn’t earn her a single point because she didn’t win the final.

Veteran Steve Gasparrelli, who surprisingly hadn’t won a round all year, came to life at the suburban Portland, Ore., facility for his first victory since he won this race in 2013, edging Whiteley by a few feet in the final, 5.63 to 5.60, and snapping her Woodburn win streak at five rounds. The margin of victory was just 15-thousandths of a second.

Whiteley, who ruled the first regional in Woodburn this year with both ends of the track record and low e.t. and top speed of all three rounds of eliminations, again qualified No. 1, this time with a track-record 5.53 at 265.40 mph. She dispatched veteran Randy Parker in the first round with a solid 5.61/262 and took out Topeka winner Brian Hough in a great semifinal race, leaving first and outrunning Hough’s otherwise fine 5.61/256 with low e.t. of all of eliminations, a 5.56 at 263 mph.

Another 5.56 would’ve done the trick in the final, but Whiteley’s YNot Racing/J&A Service entry slipped to a 5.60, which left her just short of Gasparrelli’s 5.63 and slightly quicker reaction time.

The final-round appearance may not have helped Whiteley in the national championship race, but it solidified her hold on the Western Region title. She now holds a commanding 95-point lead on Doug Gordon with one race left, at the Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, which she has owned throughout her entire career, including a sweep of both the national and regional events there earlier this season.

 

PRO MOD – CHARLOTTE 2015

In the best overall performance of their Pro Mod careers, the father-and-son team of Jim and Steven Whiteley qualified solidly in the all-five-second field at the Carolina Nationals and advanced deep into eliminations – Jim reached the quarterfinals for the second race in a row, and Steven made it to the semifinals for the first time in his young career. “Finally,” Steven said. “What a relief. I was hoping Dad and I would race each other in the semi’s so that one of us was sure to be in the final, but it didn’t quite work out that way.”

Driving his popular YNot Racing/J&A Service ’14 Cadillac CTS-V, Steven went from outside the field all the way to the No. 4 spot in last-ditch qualifying with an outstanding 5.89 at 247.93 mph, one of the quickest runs of his career and his fastest speed all year. It was his second 5.80 qualifying effort in a row, including a 5.88 two weeks ago at the U.S. Nationals.

Jim clocked a 5.94 on his second qualifying attempt for the provisional No. 7 spot on the grid, slipped to 13th by the time he got back to the line for Saturday’s lone session, then picked up to a 5.92 at 245 mph to shoot back up to the 10th spot. Numerous past event winners – Don Walsh (No. 18, 6.00), Jay Payne (No. 19, 6.02), reigning series champ Rickie Smith (No. 22, 6.05), Kenny Lang (No. 23, 6.05), and Mike Castellana (No. 25, 6.12) failed to make the cut.

When eliminations for the third-to-last race of the 10-race 2015 J&A Service NHRA Pro Mod series kicked off, both Whiteleys powered through the first round, trailering a pair of “name” drivers. Jim got around Gatornationals winner and early season points leader Bob Rahaim in a great race, leaving first by a few thousandths of a second and leading Rahaim door handle to door handle right to the lights for a thrilling 5.93 to 5.94 win. The margin of victory was just 15-thousandths of a second. One pair later, Steven strapped a huge holeshot on veteran Chip King and drove away from him, not just winning but establishing low e.t. of the entire round with a 5.92.

Sunday in round two, Steven knocked off one of the biggest stars in Pro Mod, Englishtown winner Bill Glidden, son of legendary Pro Stock racer Bob Glidden, with the second-quickest run of the round, 5.93. Jim’s ’69 Chevelle dropped that round to eventual winner Danny Rowe, 6.08 to 10.11, after getting a slight jump at the line. Steven also left on Rowe in the semifinals but came out on the wrong end of a much closer race, 5.91 to 5.99.

“We just missed the setup that time,” Steven said. “It was way too soft, our worst full run of the weekend, and I could tell right away. I Tree’d him, and I still saw his fender right away. As soon as we got past the Tree, I knew. He never really did pull away from me, but I couldn’t get around him.”

With just a few days off before the penultimate event of the season, Jim and Steven head to Gateway Int’l Raceway in St. Louis with a ton of momentum eyeing the very real prospect of the YNot Racing/J&A Service team’s first Pro Mod title.

TAFC – INDY 2015

At the NHRA U.S. Nationals, the most prestigious event in drag racing, YNot Racing/J&A Service driver Annie Whiteley padded her already commanding lead in the Top Alcohol Funny Car standings with her sixth final-round appearance already this season.

“The car ran good all weekend, but not quite good enough in the final,” said Whiteley, who appeared in the Indy final for the second time in three years. Whiteley, who won national events in Seattle and Las Vegas and regional events in Vegas and Woodburn earlier this season, came out on the wrong end of a close final-round match with Andy Bohl, 5.62 to 5.63.

The incoming points leader’s road to the final began with a solid 5.65 in Friday’s first qualifying session. She opened eliminations from the No. 6 qualifying spot with an impressive 5.57 in last-shot qualifying Sunday morning and ran at least in the low 5.60s at well over 260 mph on seven of eight runs over the long Labor Day weekend.

In the first round of eliminations late Sunday afternoon, Whiteley dispatched four-time national event champ Dan Pomponio with a good light and a smooth, trouble-free 5.60, one of the best e.t.s of the round. Monday in round two, her consistent 5.66 knocked off Mike Doushgounian, who was at the wheel of the same car Frank Manzo drove opposite her in the 2013 Indy final. Reigning Top Alcohol Funny Car world champ Steve Harker was the next to go. After laying down the only run in the 5.50s all day Monday to win round two, he slowed to an 8.53 in the semi’s while Whiteley sailed to a winning 5.64. She picked up to a 5.63 in the final, but Bohl also found a hundredth for a close 5.62-5.63 win.

“Nobody likes to lose, but I’m happier to have been in the final round than I am disappointed that I didn’t win it,” Whiteley said philosophically. “The best part is, this was a great weekend for points.” With another runner-up finish and the season rapidly winding down, her lead has ballooned to more than 100 points over second-place Jonnie Lindberg.

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