Tag: 2016 (Page 1 of 4)

CORY REED NAMED 2016 NHRA ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

With more round-wins this year than all other candidates combined, NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle racer Cory Reed locked up the coveted Auto Club of Southern California Road to the Future Rookie of the Year award for 2016.

One of just two candidates to reach a final in their rookie season, Reed was runner-up at Maple Grove and reached the semifinals at St. Louis and in a clutch performance at the last race of the regular season, the U.S. Nationals, that catapulted him into the Countdown to the Championship playoffs.

Reed, who climbed as high as 7th in the NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle standings, racked up 12 round-wins during the season, upsetting some of the top names on the NHRA tour, including three former world champs – teammate Angelle Sampey, Eddie Krawiec, Hector Arana Sr.

Honored with the other stars of the drag racing universe at the NHRA championship awards ceremony in Hollywood the day after the season-ending NHRA Finals in Pomona, Calif., Reed pocketed $20,000 in addition to the prestigious award. He joins a star-studded list of former Rookies of the Year, including superstars Del Worsham, Jeg Coughlin, Gary Scelzi, Jason Line, Robert Hight, and Larry Dixon.

Reed, the only candidate of the six to reach the playoffs, thanked parents Jim and Annie Whiteley, Sampey, crew chief Ken Johnson and crew, and Star Racing’s George and Jackie Bryce, who helped transform the young rider from a raw rookie to a top performer in just one season. For the 2017 campaign, Reed is leaving the vaunted Star team and taking Sampey with him to his new team, Team Liberty Racing.

TAFC – POMONA 2016

It wasn’t epic like 2015, when she led the national standings for months and remained in championship contention right down to the last day of the season, but 2016 ended up another solid season for Annie Whiteley’s J&A Service/YNot Racing team.

At the NHRA Finals in Pomona, Calif., Whiteley wrapped up a half-decade of Alcohol Funny Car competition with a winning record for the fourth time in five years and a fourth Top 10 finish in the national standings.

Whiteley qualified ninth in the fastest field in history with an outstanding 5.52 at more than 270 mph – a time that would have been good for the fast half of the field at any other race, ever – but got a tough first-round draw, nemesis Shane Westerfield, who was even quicker with a 5.50. Both passes came in the opening qualifying session, putting them 1-2 on the provisional grid before both were knocked down seven spots to the exact middle of the field in subsequent qualifying sessions.

Racing in the first pair of the first round as Nos. 8 and 9 qualifiers often do, Westerfield won by matching his qualifying time with another 5.50-flat. Whiteley left hard but slowed on the top end, coasting across the finish line with a smoky 5.88 at just 190 mph.

Whiteley and the J&A Service/YNot team head into the offseason with yet another Top 10 finish (8th), another winning record, 16-15 (.516), and three final-round appearances – one at a divisional event (Woodburn) and the other two at back-to-back national events, Brainerd and Indy.

PSM – POMONA 2016

Cory Reed may have been knocked out early in his final race for the PSE/Star Racing team, but it did little to detract from a wildly successful rookie season that ended with him as a prohibitive favorite to capture the prestigious 2016 Road to the Future NHRA Rookie of the Year award.

At the NHRA Finals at the Los Angeles County Fairplex in Pomona, Reed, the only rookie to make the Top 10 in any professional category this year, came out on the wrong end of a first-round matchup with the toughest possible opponent, reigning Pro Stock Motorcycle world champ and two-time Finals winner Andrew Hines.

After beating his first-round opponent exactly two-thirds of the time in 2016 – an almost unprecedented feat for a first-year rider – Reed slipped to a 7.15 at 188.10 mph, well short of his qualifying time and far short of the unbeatable 6.88/194.52 put up by Hines, who had to defeat Reed to stay in contention for another championship.

Reed’s first qualifying run turned out to be his best all weekend, a 6.911/192.80 that had him way up in the No. 5 qualifying spot at the time. Subsequent runs of 7.017/191.43, 7.212/188.94, and 6.987/192.03 didn’t improve his position, and he settled in the No. 13 spot for eliminations, his third-worst starting position all year.

Teammate Angelle Sampey, who will join Reed’s all-new Team Liberty Racing operation as team manager and a fellow rider for 2017, still had a mathematical shot late in the season at what would have been her fourth career NHRA championship. She reached the final in her last ride for Star Racing, falling to Matt Smith, who scored for the first time in more than three years.

TAFC – LAS VEGAS REGIONAL 2 2016

Racing for the third time in a week at the same facility – her best track on the circuit, The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway – Annie Whiteley qualified high in a field so tough that six of the eight non-qualifiers were former national event champs.

After opening with a 5.56 at 266.79 mph, Whiteley went up in smoke immediately on her second of three qualifying attempts and improved slightly to a 5.561/267.00 mph in last-shot qualifying to lock down the No. 2 spot for good. She trailed only DJ Cox, runner-up a week earlier at the Las Vegas national event, who ran slightly quicker than her (5.541 and 5.539) on side-by-side runs for the No. 1 spot.

Paired against Nick Januik, also a former winner of the Vegas national event, in round one, Whiteley’s J&A Service/YNot team advanced with a consistent 5.57/267.00 while Januik’s Las Vegas-based car struggled for traction in a 5.85/242 loss. It got no easier from there: all four semifinalists are currently in the Top 10 in the NHRA national standings – Whiteley (8th), Doug Gordon (3rd), Shane Westerfield (7th), and Terry Ruckman (4th). Second-ranked John Lombardo was knocked out in the first round of eliminations and 2015-16 national champ Jonnie Lindberg didn’t even qualify.

The semifinals turned out to be just as brutal as expected: the E.T.s were 5.55, 5.56, 5.57, and 5.58, at speeds from 262 to 267 mph. Whiteley was the quickest (5.555) and the fastest (267.27 mph – top speed of the meet), but came out on the wrong end of a tight 5.55-5.57 match with Gordon despite a better-than-average .078 reaction time. Gordon was off the mark first with a .051, held on to win, and defeated Westerfield in the final to sweep the last two regional events of the season and secure his first Vegas wins ever.

Whiteley finishes fourth in the toughest region in the country and currently stands eighth in the national standings with one race left on the schedule. With a victory at the season-ending Finals next weekend in Pomona, Calif., she can still make the national Top 5.

TAFC – LAS VEGAS REGIONAL 1 2016

The West Regional at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway – a track and an event Annie Whiteley has dominated since her rookie season in 2012 – ended in disappointment for Whiteley’s Colorado-based J&A Service/YNot team. Originally slated for Apr. 8-10 but completely washed out, the rain date was contested in the middle of the week between the Toyota Nationals at Las Vegas and the originally scheduled season-ending regional the following weekend.

Whiteley had been one of just three drivers to qualify with a run in the 5.50s back in April, a 5.59 at 263.05 mph that left her behind only No. 1 qualifier John Lombardo (5.54) and former world champ Tony Barone (5.58). The bump was a 5.67, making this one of the quickest fields in Top Alcohol Funny Car history, and three drivers – Jay Payne, Greg Hunter, and Bill Bernard – DNQed despite running in the 5.60s.

Eliminations figured to be tough – all eight qualifiers are multiple national event winners, as were two of the alternates – and they absolutely were. Whiteley was paired against her recent nemesis, many-time division champ Steve Gasparrelli, who benefited greatly from the rain delay and ran a 5.56 in pre-race testing.

On race day, Gasparrelli’s engine went away around half-track, and he faded to a 6.10 at just 158 mph. After a solid .062 reaction time, Whiteley marched to a straight-as-a-string 5.55 at 267.64 mph – top speed of the round – to win easily. She was on an even stronger run in the semifinals until her engine let go a few hundred feet short of the finish line, slowing her to a 5.60-flat at just 232 mph and letting Terry Ruckman, who swept both national events in Las Vegas this year, to slip around her for a close win.

Whiteley and the YNot team won’t have to wait long for a shot at redemption, however – the regularly scheduled season-ending regional event at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway begins in two days.

PSM – LAS VEGAS 2016

As he has at eight of past 11 races in his amazing rookie season, Cory Reed drove deep into eliminations at the NHRA Toyota Nationals, defeating, of all people, PSE/Star Racing/YNot teammate Angelle Sampey on a first-round holeshot – his specialty all year.

Reed, who reached the Pro Stock Motorcycle semifinals at Indy and St. Louis and was runner-up at Maple Grove, charged off The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway starting line with a telepathic reaction time (.009, just nine-thousandths of a second from a perfect light) to upend Sampey’s quicker 6.97 with a 6.99. She was going faster at the finish line, 191.59 mph to 190.32, but he got there first by exactly 1/30th of a second, which, at more than 190 mph, is about a bike length.

Sampey, who will join Reed on the newly formed Team Liberty Racing operation as a team manager and fellow rider in 2017, qualified higher than her young teammate with a 6.96 at 191.81 mph, good for the No. 5 spot on the 16-bike ladder. Reed was No. 12 with a 7-flat at 188 after unerringly consistent qualifying runs of 7.07/187.26, 7.00/188.86, 7.06/184.57, and 7.07/188.15.

With just a single event left in the 16-race season and six-race Countdown to the Championship playoff, Reed is holding steady in the seventh spot in the national standings and has to be considered the frontrunner for the 2016 NHRA Rookie of the Year award.

PRO MOD – LAS VEGAS 2016

In his probably his best outing since he beat world champ Rickie Smith in the Houston final early this season, Jim Whiteley capped off a successful 2016 campaign with his third semifinal showing in the 10-race J&A Service NHRA Pro Mod Series.

Whiteley catapulted from the bubble to the final four at the NHRA Toyota Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with increasingly quicker runs in his J&A Service/YNot Racing ’69 Chevelle. He made the cut with a pair of five-second runs in qualifying, including a 5.959 at 242.23 mph, then picked up the pace in eliminations.

Against former Top Fuel racer Sidnei Frigo, whose qualifying crash at Houston enabled Whiteley to go from the first alternate spot to the winner’s circle, Whiteley picked up dramatically to a 5.92 but didn’t need it when Frigo blatantly red-lighted with a -.246 light. Frigo, winless against Whiteley in three career meetings, nearly duplicated his 5.82 No. 1 qualifying time with a wasted 5.83.

In the second round, Whiteley met Clint Hairston, who prevented a father-son matchup by defeating son Steven Whiteley in the first round despite Steven’s outstanding .026 reaction time. Jim also had a .026 light against Hairston and parlayed it into another round-win with his quickest run of the weekend, a 5.90 at 243 mph. Hairston trailed with a solid .056 light and a right-there 5.93.

The show came to an end in the semifinals when Whiteley, who almost never gets left on, even in qualifying, was too quick for his own good. He red-lighted by 0.25-second, sending door-car legend Todd Tutterow to his first career final, where he lost to championship runner-up Troy Coughlin.

Smith edged Coughlin for the 2016 J&A Service NHRA Pro Mod Series championship by an even points, 794 to 744. Steven and Jim Whiteley barely missed the Top 10, finishing 11th and 12th, respectively, with 340 and 307 points, just behind second-generation star Billy Glidden, who anchored the Top 10 with 380.

 

TAFC – LAS VEGAS NATIONAL 2016

Annie Whiteley’s snake-bitten J&A Service/YNot team qualified in the fast half of the field for the 12th time in 13th starts this season, but for the third race in a row was out early with a disappointing first-round loss.

At the Toyota Nationals at her best track on the NHRA circuit, The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where she won the first race of her career as a Top Alcohol Funny Car rookie in 2012, she fell to former Gatornationals winner Ulf Leanders in what, by the numbers, should have been the closest race of the first round.

They qualified eighth and ninth with matching 5.60s, Whiteley in the No. 8 spot with a 5.603 and Leanders No. 9 with a 5.606. Such matchups usually go to the driver with the better reaction time, which, in this case, was Whiteley, who bolted off the line first with one of her best lights of the season, an outstanding .039.

Leanders matched their qualifying times with another 5.60-flat, so Whiteley would have won with anything better than a 5.63, but she knocked the tires loose in low gear. Racing in the first pair of the first round, at the ungodly hour of 8:30 a.m., she recovered quickly and charged after him, but a 5.77 at just short of 260 mph left her J&A Service/YNot Camaro a few car lengths behind at the finish line.

By any metric, it was one of the toughest Top Alcohol Funny Car races ever held. It featured one of the biggest fields in years – 28 cars attempted to qualify – and one of the fastest, with a bump of 5.66 and former NHRA event winners in the first five alternate spots on the final qualifying ladder.

Whiteley stands seventh in the national standings, with two more races coming up at Las Vegas – the makeup of the rained-out West Region opener scheduled for April in the middle of the week while the SEMA show is going on 15 miles away, and the regularly scheduled West closer set for next weekend.

PSM – DALLAS 2016

Cory Reed’s dream season got a brief jolt when the rookie sensation, a semifinalist (at least) at three of the past four races, came out on the wrong end of a tight first-round match with former world champ Matt Smith at the NHRA Fall Nationals in Dallas.

Reed negotiated the infamous narrow groove at the Texas Motorplex for one of his better runs all year, a 6.872, to make the top half of the Pro Stock Motorcycle program for the fourth time in six races. He ran another 6.87 off the trailer and 6.89 later in qualifying but slipped to a 6.92 opposite Smith’s 6.89 for a close loss.

Reed, who’s been living in the teens all year, had another teen reaction time (.013) but actually was edged off the line by the usually more cautious Smith’s perfect .000 – one-thousandth of a second from a red-light disqualification. “I couldn’t really see him because I have blinders on my helmet but I could definitely hear him, so I knew it was going to be close at the finish line,” said Reed, whose Star Racing/YNot Buell crossed .046-second behind Smith’s Victory Gunner. “That’s not we were looking for, obviously, but it’s OK. Overall, the team did good.”

Reed’s Star Racing/YNot teammate, Angelle Sampey, who will be part of his all-new YNot team for 2017, reached the semifinals and now stands third in the Top 10 standings with two races left to go in the six-race Countdown to the Championship.

TAFC – DALLAS 2016

Coming off a No. 1 at their last stop, Annie Whiteley and the J&A Service/YNot team qualified just seventh at the NHRA Fall Nationals despite a 5.50 and bowed out with a disappointing first-round loss.

Typically dynamite conditions at the Texas Motorplex meant the entire field was fast, and the bump ended up being the second-quickest in Top Alcohol Funny Car history (5.635), anchored by Bryan Brown, the same driver who was No. 16 at the only faster race, Dallas last year (5.621). Though teams got just two qualifying sessions instead of the usual three, four of them made it into the 5.40s and another three ran 5.50-flats, including Whiteley, who was right behind second-ranked John Lombardo’s 5.506 and third-ranked Doug Gordon’s 5.508 with a 5.509.

For Whiteley, ranked fifth in the national standings before and after this race, a sometimes frustrating season of near-misses and could’ve-beens continued in the first round when she met recent nemesis Steve Gasparrelli. He qualified 10th with a 5.57 but stepped up to a 5.55 to edge Whiteley’s 5.59.

“I short-shifted,” she said. “I have no idea why I did that – sometimes, it just happens. The car wasn’t shaking hard or anything, but in the back of your mind the only thing that’s going get to you down there faster is hitting the next gear and sometimes your thumb just pushes the button. Sometimes you get away with it and sometimes you don’t, and I knew what happened as soon as I did it.”

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