Steven Whiteley was riding high coming into Charlotte for the Four-Wide Nationals, a Top 5 driver in the standings and one of the odds-on favorites to win the race. Three days later he pulled out of ZMax Dragway a non-qualifier, clearly aggravated and dead set on turning things around after his first first-round loss all year.
Friday was a complete disaster for the young driver, one of the more consistent qualifiers on the J&A Service NHRA Pro Mod circuit year after year. Rain and 41-mph winds killed one qualifying session, and he was timed out on the line in the other one. After a shake-plagued shutoff blast Saturday morning, things weren’t looking good for the YNot team heading into last-shot qualifying, but as it has many times before, they came through under pressure with a 5.78 at nearly 253 mph to make the show.
Anything close to that Sunday morning in the first round and Whiteley would’ve been in the semifinals because only one car in his quad made it to the finish line under power. Whiteley was second off the line, trailing only Sidnei Frigo’s telepathic .015 reaction time with an outstanding .033, and they all crossed the finish line in the inverse order of how they left the starting line. Rickie Smith cut just a .090 light but laid down a 5.77 to finish first, and Chad Green’s 8.27 at 120 mph was enough to advance, literally hundreds of feet ahead of Whiteley’s aborted 10.19 at 87 mph and Frigo’s distant 13.95 at 47 mph. In one of the more unusual heats in the anything-but-orderly history of four-wide competition, nobody was within two seconds or 30 mph of anyone else.