Tag: 4-wide


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.


After qualifying somewhere other than No. 1 for the first time all year, Top Alcohol Funny Car star Annie Whiteley, who had set the pace five times in a row, earned the fifth and perhaps most satisfying national event victory of her career at the Four-Wide Nationals in Charlotte. Starting from No. 2, Whiteley wheeled the powerful YNot Racing Camaro to one 5.40-something after another in a race-day performance that culminated in a final-round decision over recent nemesis DJ Cox that catapulted her to first place in the national standings.

With veteran crew chief, former Top Fuel pilot, and accomplished practical joker Mike Strasburg calling the shots, Whiteley reeled off 5.40s in every round to eradicate the painful memory a holeshot loss a week earlier in Richmond against the very driver she faced down in the final round this time. “This has got to be just about just the best win ever,” said Whiteley, who also scored at the national level in Chicago in 2013, Las Vegas and Seattle in 2015, and Gainesville last year. “The car was perfect all weekend – it pretty much has been all year – and it just feels so good to win a big race like this, especially after what happened last week at Richmond.”

Whiteley’s YNot team missed qualifying in the top spot for the first time all season when Swede Ulf Leanders assumed the early qualifying lead with a 5.46 and claimed it for good with a subsequent 5.42. She opened with a 5.52 and began eliminations from the No. 2 spot with a 5.46. From there, it was nothing but total domination, a string of 5.40s at 270-plus mph to trailer defending event champ Johan Lindberg, 2013-2014 winner Dan Pomponio, 2012 winner Andy Bohl, and, in the final, Cox, one of the four drivers to ever run in the 5.30s.

Whiteley established low e.t. of eliminations with a 5.43 against Pomponio, and, after an hour-plus wait to run the final following Stevie Jackson’s spectacular double-wall crash in the Pro Mod final, seemed to have everything under control until she hit the button for high gear not knowing the race was already hers. “The car just went crazy,” she said. “For a second I almost thought I was going to crash, but I stayed in it.” Her reward was a satisfying, vindicating win over Cox, who had barely beaten her on a holeshot eight days earlier in Richmond, Va.

Whiteley, who has reached at least the semifinals in all six starts this season, went the distance for the second time in 2018, including her season-opening regional win at No Problem Raceway in the swaps of Louisiana. “I didn’t try to make something happen this time,” this time. “I just trusted myself to cut a light and believed that the car would be there when it really counted, and it was.”


Just days after the ultimate high of a victory at the Spring Nationals in Houston, Jim Whiteley found himself in a most unfamiliar place when qualifying concluded for the Four-Wide Nationals in Charlotte: on the outside looking in, unqualified along with son Steven, last year’s Gatornationals champion, who also missed the cut.

“I messed up on the Tree on the one run that definitely would have been good enough to qualify,” Whiteley said with characteristic modesty. “The Four-Wide Tree can really confuse you if you’re not careful, and I rolled right through the beams because I thought I was in a different lane than I actually was. To be in the what’s the left lane at any other track but one of the two right lanes on a four-wide track and have to look at the other side of the Tree … it’s just not natural. It gives you something to think about, and in drag racing that’s never a good thing.”

Positioned in Lane 3, Whiteley crept into the beams with a wall on his left and opponent Rickie Smith to his right. For 99.9% of the runs he’s ever made, that would have him looking at the left side of the Tree. But as the third of four drivers lined up across two adjoining tracks, the stage lights corresponding to his spot in the lineup actually were second from the right. Wondering why his staged light wasn’t coming on, he inched through both the pre-staged and staged beams and wasn’t on the starting line when the Tree dropped. Translation: his run wasn’t timed.

Naturally, it was that very run when Whiteley’s ’69 Yenko Camaro made had its best performance (about a 5.77, according to information downloaded from the data recorder), a run that otherwise would have qualified him in the top half of the field. In each subsequent session, he, like most Pro Mod drivers on the fast but tricky zMax surface, struggled for traction. He went up in smoke Saturday morning in the heat, and a backed-down 5.84 in last-shot qualifying late Saturday afternoon that was one of the better times of that session ultimately was good enough only for 19th on the final grid. “That won’t happen again,” he said of the opening-session slipup.

Son Steven fared no better, never making a representative run and landing 28th on the final qualifying chart with an aggregate best of 6.32 in the Friday evening session and a 231-mph speed Saturday morning. “There’ll be some big changes before we get to Topeka,” he said, undaunted. “We’ll be back.”


Annie Whiteley qualified No. 3 at the 4-Wide Nationals at zMax Dragway with a 5.54 and got only quicker from there, easily winning the first round with a 5.536 and barely losing in the quarterfinals with a 5.535 at 269.24 mph – just 0.05-mph off of top speed of the meet.

It was her misfortune to make that run against off-and-on nemesis Andy Bohl, who ran .05-mph faster in the other lane, edging her 5.535/269.24 with a slightly quicker and faster 5.520/269.29. “We take turns beating each other – one for him, one for me, one for him, one for me,” Whiteley said. “I guess it was his turn. It must have been really close down there – I never saw him, and he never saw me. We got out of our cars and asked each other, ‘Who won?’ ”

By three-hundredths of a second, Bohl did and moved on to the semifinals. Whiteley’s identical 5.536 in the first round was more than enough against former East Region champion Matt Gill, who shook hard off the line trying to make up the distance between his No. 14 qualifying berth and her No. 3.

After breaking right off the line on the first qualifying attempt, Whiteley’s Mike Strasburg-tuned J&A Service/YNot Racing Camaro was never out of the 5.50s or under 260 mph thereafter. She clocked a solid 5.561 at 267.59 mph in the second session and backed it up with a 5.545/268.87 in Q3. “After that first qualifying run, the car ran great all weekend,” she said. “If we keep doing what we’re doing now the rest of the year, we’ll be fine.”


Jim and son Steven Whiteley both reached the semifinals in Pro Mod’s highly anticipated debut at the unpredictable 4-Wide Nationals, which fans love and drivers in other classes have come to dread. “I know what the pros have said in the past, but I loved it,” said Jim, whose sentiments were echoed by not just Steven but 85 percent of the dozens of Pro Mod drivers who descended upon zMax Dragway for the first time.

“It’s hardest for the guys in the inside lanes,” Steven said. “It’s not just that there are four stage lights to keep track of instead of just two; it’s that if you’re in lane 2 or lane 3, you’re not looking at the Tree the way you have at every other track you’ve ever been to. That’s what messes everybody up. You’ve really got to train yourself ahead of time.”

Just qualifying, as is the case at every event on the J&A Service Pro Mod tour, where 30 drivers are vying for a spot in the field every weekend, is an accomplishment. Jim made the top half of the field with a 5.83 at 247 mph for the No. 7 spot and Steven, despite running just two-hundredths slower than his dad, a 5.85 at 249, was six spots behind him in 13th.

In the first round of eliminations, Jim left on everybody in his quad and advanced easily with a 5.836, matching his qualifying time right to the thousandth of a second. He finished second to eventual winner Mike Castellana and well ahead of former Pro Stock great Larry Morgan, who’s in his first season of Pro Mod, and veteran Danny Rowe. (In 4-wide competition, the top two drivers from each quad move on to the next round.)

Coming from the bottom half of the field, Steven beat everybody with by far his best run of the weekend, an outstanding 5.79 at 251 mph. Jonathan Gray survived with a 5.85, Michael Bowman lost on a holeshot with a 5.81, and Pete Farber, who outqualified them all, shook hard and shut off early.

Steven had his pick of the four lanes for his semifinal matchup, but violent shake did him in not far off the line. “I could see the guy on the same track as me way ahead and knew I was never going to catch him,” he said. “I might have tried to get back on it because you never know what the guys on the other track are doing, but I could actually see Troy [Coughlin] over the wall when he passed me, and there was no way I was going to beat them both.”

Jim suffered a similar fate, coasting to a 12.05 at 99 mph, but once again he left on all the other drivers. Both Whiteleys walked away with a smile on their faces. “This whole thing was awesome,” Steven said. “It wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be, and it was actually a lot of fun. I can’t wait to get back here next year.”

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