Tag: 2018 (Page 1 of 5)

TAFC – POMONA 2018

With three straight runs in the mid-to-low 5.40s, Annie Whiteley wrapped up her seventh season as a Top Alcohol Funny Car driver with a another solid showing at the NHRA Finals in Pomona, Calif. Whiteley, who ran .40s in all four rounds of eliminations last year, put together three runs from 5.45 to 5.43 for a semifinal finish to complete a four-win campaign third in the final standings, tying the career-high she established in 2015.

“It was a really good year,” said Whiteley, who scored in Belle Rose, Charlotte, Denver, and Brainerd and also made it to the final in Gainesville and Dallas. She qualified No. 1 six times, including five in a row to open the season, had an average qualifying position of 2.9 with an average e.t. and speed of 5.522 at 269.10 mph, and made the fast half of the field in 15 of 16 starts – all but the race before this one, the Las Vegas regional.

The electronic gremlins that hamstrung the YNot team in Vegas persisted in the first qualifying session at Pomona, where the car shut itself off and had to be pushed off the line. Whiteley roared back with a 5.45 at 272 mph for the No. 2 spot and wiped out Northamptonshire, England’s Robert Turner in the first round with a better 5.44/268 and Wyoming’s Kris Hool in the second round with an even better 5.43/272.56 (top speed of the meet). Banished to the left lane for the semifinals, she came out on the wrong end of a pedalfest with Sweden’s Ulf Leanders, who earned lane choice with a career-best 5.38 (low e.t.) in the previous round.

Neither driver cracked the six-second mark in the semi’s – Whiteley shook hard off the line, pedaled, recovered, and charged for the top end until it was clear that there was no overtaking Leanders, who had made it farther downtrack before tire-shake set it. “That was a one-lane race track,” Whiteley said. “If I was in my car, I’d have tried a little harder to pedal it earlier, but when it’s somebody else’s stuff, there’s always one thing in the back of your mind: Don’t tear up their car. The steering box was going bad. It felt loose, like the front end wasn’t planted, and it kept getting worse. You’d just barely touch the wheel and the car would be turning and I didn’t want to push it. It’s OK, though. Four wins, third place in the points – that’s a pretty good year.”

PSM – POMONA 2018

Back on the bike after team boss Cory Reed had to substitute for him in Las Vegas, Joey Gladstone reeled off some of his best runs of the season and ranked among the top drivers deep into qualifying. After ripping off a 6.88 in the second of four sessions for the No. 5 spot on the provisional grid, Gladstone settled into the No. 11 spot on the final ladder with that time and backed it up with a nearly as good 6.90-flat.

Heading into eliminations, Gladstone had a nice stack of E.T. slips to build from: 6.96/193, 6.88/196, another 6.963/193, and a 6.90/193. His first-round opponent turned out to be about as tough as it gets – 2016 Pro Stock Motorcycle world champ Jerry Savoie, but Gladstone was only had a few hundredths of a second behind him, 6.83 to 6.88.

Trying to get a jump on Savoie, who has come out on the wrong end of a few holeshot decisions over the years, an overanxious Gladstone jumped the gun by the invisible margin of just 1/50th of a second. His -.023 red-light start invalidated a 7.01 at 192 mph and advanced the always-tough alligator farmer from the bayous of Mississippi, who advanced to the quarterfinals with a run that would have been hard to get around anyway, 6.83. It was a disappointing end to the 2018 season for Gladstone, but with a full-time ride with Team Liberty for the 2019 NHRA Mello Yello campaign, there are bigger and better things ahead.

TAFC – LAS VEGAS REGIONAL 2018

Annie Whiteley took her rightful place in the quickest, fastest Top Alcohol Funny Car field of all-time, but at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, site of so much success in years past, she was gone early. Driving the repurposed John Lombardo/Rick Jackson Camaro she’d strapped into for the first time a week earlier at the Vegas national, Whiteley ran a 5.52/267 and an even better 5.51/268 that surprisingly didn’t land her in the fast half of the field.

It took a run in the 5.40s to do that and an unbelievable 5.53 to make the record bump. Newly crowned world champ Sean Bellemeur, who entered the event on a five-race win streak, locking up the first perfect 10-win season since Frank Manzo’s glory days, failed to qualify, and perennial contender Doug Gordon nearly did. Whiteley’s 5.51 was good only for the No. 6 spot, which set up a first-round match with Lombardo, who’d run a 5.47 for No. 3.

“[Crew chief] Mike [Strasburg] was saying at Dallas that the car wasn’t running that great, wasn’t doing what it was supposed to,” Whiteley said. “He could tell that something in the ignition wasn’t right because he was putting in timing maps all weekend that have never worked before but that the computer told him to run. Turns out the spark plug wires weren’t right, so we weren’t making the power every other part of the tune-up told him we should be making. Every run, he’d say, ‘It should have run better than that,’ and he never says stuff like that.”

Strasburg and crew threw a new set of wires on it for eliminations and voilà – instant power. Only now, with the rest of the tune-up hopped up to compensate, the car made too much power, and Whiteley blew the tires off right at the swap, allowing Lombardo to survive with a run barely over 200 mph. His engine blew in a flash of flame, slowing him to a 5.73/202, but he still made it across the finish line well ahead of Whiteley’s coasting 12.67 at 85 mph. “That showed Mike that the power had been there all along,” Whiteley said. “We just couldn’t run what we should have been running because the wires were bad. This was one time we almost didn’t even mind losing a round because now we know the car will be right for Pomona.”

PSM – LAS VEGAS 2018

Pressed into service when Joey Gladstone’s jet-ski romp on the Colorado River days before the Toyota Nationals ended in a 70-mph tumble and a bruised tailbone, Cory Reed entered his first NHRA event since he climbed off the bike at Indy to grant his much lighter teammate the opportunity of a lifetime. In the end, it might have been better had Gladstone been healthy enough to ride.

Fit as a fiddle and skinny as a rail, Reed is still at a distinct competitive disadvantage, too tall and too heavy for his Buell-powered Team Liberty XBR. The former NHRA Rookie of the Year opened qualifying with an off-pace 7.17 at 190 mph, followed with a similar 7.13 at 190 mph Friday afternoon, and picked up about a tenth of a second Saturday but still found himself a few hundredths short of the all-6-second field after back-to-back 7.0s at 190.

Reed wound up 19th on the final qualifying sheet, a couple of ticks behind Katie Sullivan and many-time national event winner Karen Stoffer and ahead of veteran Freddie Camarena, former Division 7 bike champ Anthony Vanetti, and newcomer Maurice Allen. When the tour wraps up at the NHRA Finals in Pomona, Calif., in two weeks, Gladstone will be back on the seat, and when the 2019 season opens in Gainesville next March, Reed will be riding a lighter, faster, more competitive bike.

 

 

TAFC – LAS VEGAS NATIONAL 2018

Anxious at the prospect of making her first run since she crashed off the end of the Texas Motorplex shutdown area on Oct. 7, Annie Whiteley swapped feet at the Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the first time in a temporary new ride. “I was nervous as hell on that first qualifying run,” she admitted. “I had two weeks to think about getting back in there, but after that first run, it was over. I was fine for the second one and totally comfortable by the third.”

It was a solid effort not just for Whiteley but for her entire team, led by crew chief Mike Strasburg, who was unfamiliar with an altogether different car than the one they’d run the past two years. “People think this is the body off Lombardo’s car,” Whiteley said of the Camaro they borrowed from two-time championship runner-ups Rick Jackson and John Lombardo. “It’s not just the body; it’s that whole car – the body, the chassis, the computer, everything except the motor, transmission, and pedals out of my car. It’s actually the same one Lombardo was driving when I raced him in the final round last year at Pomona.”

It’s built for a driver about a foot taller than Whiteley. “It’s different, I can tell you that,” she said. “And when it’s not your car, you don’t fit in there quite right, and you definitely don’t want to hurt anything because you know it’s not yours.” The team stuffed padding in the seat so she could see over the injector, and soon she was used to the new cockpit – not 100% at home, but at least comfortable enough to compete.

Eliminations didn’t last long when Whiteley came out on the wrong end of an exceptionally tight first-round match with Brian Hough, who had never beaten the YNot team in national competition. Previously 3-0 against Hough, Whiteley ran four-thousandths of a second slower than the Oregon driver for a disappointing 5.538 to 5.542 loss. “Hey, it was good just to be back out here,” she said. “We’ll get a little closer with this thing at the regional and Pomona and be back with a brand-new car for 2019.”

PRO MOD – LAS VEGAS 2018

In the final race of the 2018 J&A Service NHRA Pro Mod tour, where Richmond winner Mike Janis was crowned champion when three-time series champion Rickie Smith went down in round two, Jim and Steven Whiteley wrapped up their seasons with solid performances. Steven qualified way up at the top, in the No. 4 position, with a 5.77, and Jim did better than 22 of the 26 teams at the Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, advancing to the quarterfinals.

“I guess 5.77’s a good number for us,” Steven said. “That’s what we ran in the final round last year at Gainesville, and with the air up here in the mountains, that’s a way better run than a .77 in Gainesville. Pro Mod is so tough. You run within a tenth and a half of low E.T. in some classes, at least you’re going to get to race, maybe go a round in eliminations. A tenth and half from the No. 1 qualifier in Pro Mod means you’re not even close to making the show. 5.77 is a baller run, but when guys are running low .70s, it’s almost like, ‘.77? Thanks for playing.’ ”

Another 5.77 in the first round would have had Whiteley right in the thick of it against opponent Michael Biehle’s virtually identical 5.76, but Whiteley’s Camaro refused to cooperate, taking him the long way down the quarter-mile and he eventually forcing him to lift. “It just drove the tire off,” he said. “This was the first race in a long time – like, maybe two years – when I made it down all four times in qualifying, and I was really excited for the first round. First round sucks. I hate it – I think everybody does – and when it takes the tire off like that, you just think, ‘Seriously?’ I went to get back on it and saw him way out there and just thought, ‘Forget it. I know we weren’t stellar, weren’t in the low .70s, but we were right there all weekend, running good every time. Going up there for first round, I thought, ‘I have a bracket car. This is something I can work with.’ I really thought we could run .76, .77 all day long.”

Team leader Jim Whiteley didn’t run as quick but fared far better, going from the No. 15 qualifying position to the middle rounds with a pair of low 5.80s in eliminations. In the first round, his 5.84 was enough to take out wily veteran Todd Tutterow, who flickered the stage light, confusing NHRA’s autostart system into turning on the Tree right as his car rocked back out of the beams for a red-light start. A similar 5.82 in the second round, even when launched by a superior .031 reaction time, wasn’t enough to hold off Brazilian Sidnei Frigo, who advanced with a 5.75 and went on to his first Pro Mod victory with identical runs in the semifinals and final.

PSM – CHARLOTTE 2018

In his fifth start astride Cory Reed’s Team Liberty Buell, Yellow Corn rider Joey Gladstone got faster and faster in almost every qualifying session and entered Carolina Nationals eliminations primed to give Vance & Hines test rider Chip Ellis all he could handle. Gladstone got off the line within thousandths of a second of the 2008 championship runner-up, but that was the last time he was in the race.

Ellis pulled away with an outstanding 6.77 – low e.t. of the entire event – while Gladstone could only watch him increase his lead with every shift after bogging hard off the line. Qualified 15th and down exactly a tenth of a second heading into their first-round heat, Gladstone wasn’t exactly the favorite against the No. 2 seed, but Ellis doubled the distance between them in qualifying (6.80 to 6.90) to an insurmountable two-tenths of a second, 6.77 to 6.97.

But despite entering eliminations in the second-to-last spot, Gladstone wasn’t out of contention. He’d already outpaced five non-qualifiers to make the Sunday field and stepped it up in virtually every session of qualifying with times of 7.01/193, 6.99/193, 6.90/192, and 6.92/194. For a No. 15 qualifier, he wasn’t far from the top – less than a tenth of a second, actually, with a 6.903 to No. 1 Eddie Krawiec’s 6.806 – but against low E.T. of the meet, no one would’ve had a chance.

PSM – DALLAS 2018

YNot Racing’s newest driver, Joey Gladstone, qualified solidly in the middle of the pack at the NHRA Fallnationals in Dallas but bowed out early with a tough first-round loss at the hands of 2016 NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle champion Jerry Savoie. Negotiating the notoriously narrow groove at the all-concrete Texas Motorplex in the first pair of the first round, Gladstone slipped to a 7.02 at 191.13 mph – 2 mph and about a tenth of a second slower than he ran in qualifying, where he was just a tick behind Savoie.

“There’s not one thing we could point a finger at on that run,” Gladstone said. “I short-shifted 2nd gear a little – that probably knocked a couple hundredths off of it – but it just fell off from qualifying. I think the motor was hurt little when we got up there. The air/fuel ratio was good, the EGTs [exhaust-gas temperatures] were good; it just wasn’t pulling as hard as it had been earlier in the weekend.”

The numbers bear that out: after opening with a strong 6.94 at 193 mph Friday afternoon, the Buell-powered YNot machine’s performance steadily but gradually diminished, from a 7.04/192 Friday evening to a 7.05/191 Saturday afternoon to a 7.03/192 in the fourth and final qualifying session. “Something internally is wrong with the engine – we don’t know what it is,” said Gladstone, who eventually finished in the No. 10 qualifying slot with a 6.94, just a hundredth of a second behind Savoie’s seventh-best 6.93. “Whatever it is, it’ll be right by the time we get to Charlotte.”

PRO MOD – DALLAS 2018

In his first official appearance at the Texas Motorplex, which immediately rocketed to the top of his all-time personal least-favorite-tracks list, Steven Whiteley, who qualified No. 1 in Bristol and No. 2 with a brand-new car in Topeka, landed in the No. 4 spot with an excellent 5.80-flat at more than 251 mph. Not bad – especially for a field that, like all J&A Service Pro Mod Series fields, attracted nearly 30 cars.

Didn’t matter. “I still hate it this place,” said Whiteley, who’s never voiced his opinion about any other track on the NHRA tour. “I hate dragging our stuff through the pits here.” Texas has always been kind to the father-and-son YNot Racing team of Jim and Steven Whiteley, but most of that good fortune has taken place to the southeast of Dallas at Houston Raceway Park, where Jim has gone the distance two of the past three years. Here Jim DNQed, missing the 5.852 bump by a mere 18-thousandths of a second with a 5.870, but Steven, despite his distaste for the entire facility, managed to go rounds.

The second-generation driver left unheralded Jader Krolow sitting on the starting line Sunday morning in the first round, winning a 5.79-5.89 race that wasn’t nearly as close as the E.T.s would indicate. Whiteley got off the line ahead of his inexperienced and obviously distracted opponent by the unimaginable margin of three-tenths of a second, and was reaching for second gear about the time Krolow left.

The wheels came off in the second round when Whiteley was eliminated by teammate Jeremy Ray. He again took a huge holeshot lead of more than a tenth of a second but had to lift when tire shake set in and was driven around by the eventual winner’s consistent 5.79. “It wasn’t a bad weekend,” Whiteley said. “But I don’t ever want to run here again. We won’t be back next year.”

TAFC – DALLAS 2018

Throwing the chutes at nearly 270 mph like she has a million times before, national record holder Annie Whiteley had no idea she was seconds away from a terrifying trip off the end of the track. Whiteley, who narrowly lost the Fallnationals Top Alcohol Funny Car final to Doug Gordon last year, barely lost to him again in 2018, this time in the second round, but another narrow loss was the least of her problems.

The YNot/J&A Service Camaro’s parachutes never blossoming and instead becoming entangled and flailing behind the car as Whiteley careened through the shutdown area and the sand trap grew closer and closer by the second – that was the problem. “I’ve never been through anything like that before,” she said. “The end of that track really comes up at you fast. It’s hard to make yourself let go of the brake handle, but that’s what you have to do or the brakes will lock up and the car will just start bouncing.”

The onboard data recorder revealed just how fast Whiteley was still going when she first went for the brakes: 250 mph. “I didn’t know if I won or lost; I just knew I didn’t want to get into the sand and tear up the car,” said Whiteley, who crossed the finish line at 269 mph just 34-thousandths of a second behind Gordon. “At some point I knew I was going into the sand, and I just wanted to get stopped before I hit the net, but I was still going so fast when I hit the sand there was no way I was going to miss it.”

“When I saw her come out of the [roof] hatch, I knew she was OK,” a relieved Jim Whiteley said. “The body is junk and the chassis is going to have to be front-halved, but most of the running gear can be swapped straight into the new car and we should be ready by the first Vegas race [Oct. 26-28].” Annie, currently third in the NHRA national standings and clearly in line for yet another Top 5 finish, will wrap up the season at the Toyota Nationals in Las Vegas, the Las Vegas regional a week later, and the NHRA Finals in Pomona, Calif., the week after that.

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