Tag: gainesville (Page 1 of 3)

PSM – GAINESVILLE

Joey Gladstone left Gainesville a career-high third in the standings after the finest season-opener of his young career – one of the few races ever run without any qualifying. Drying out from nearly six inches of rain in two days, the Pro Stock Motorcycles never hit the lanes till the sun was going down Saturday evening, and when they finally did, only four actually made a run. None of them counted.

One, by seven-time national event winner Michael Phillips, oiled the lengthy Gainesville Raceway strip from end to end, and by the time the cleanup was complete, conditions were unsafe – at least according to some. Others, including Gladstone, felt quite the opposite. “This is crazy,” he said of the decision to halt qualifying and seed the field based on final 2021 points standings. “There’s nothing wrong with this track. If you want to run, run. I do. If you don’t, roll up there and take the Tree. There’s only 16 bikes here – you’re in.”

Gladstone, who made his NHRA debut exactly 10 years ago this weekend, was slotted into the No. 7 position on the ladder based on his career-best eighth-place finish in the 2021 standings. But instead of a brutal first-round matchup with six-time world champ Andrew Hines, who’s just tuning for Vance & Hines racers this year and not riding, Gladstone got a much more favorable matchup with Kelly Clontz. He trounced her by half a tenth on the Tree, .066 to .113, and that was the difference in a much closer than anticipated race, 6.86/198 to 6.87/193.

In the quarterfinals, Gladstone drew not 2021 championship runner-up Angelle Sampey, as expected, but rather Marc Ingwersen, who’d upset her in the first round for the first round-win of his career. The Reed Motorsports Suzuki Hayabusa posted a fine 6.78, which was within six-hundredths off the incoming national record of 6.72 until eventual winner Karen Stoffer doubled it three pair later with a record-shattering 6.66. “Looks like we got our scooter back,” said Gladstone, who maintained his earlier 198-mph pace in the semifinals but slipped to a 6.88 and fell to Angie Smith’s 6.73/201. “Good weekend,” assessed team leader Cory Reed, hobbling around in a walking boot and thrilled to be back in action after his harrowing Charlotte crash Sept. 19. “I feel great. I’m getting around pretty good, and I feel a lot better than I did. But what really feels good is seeing those win-lights come on.”

PSM – GAINESVILLE 2021

Backed by the greatest team in motorcycle drag racing history, Cory Reed made his first official runs with Vance & Hines power at one of the sport’s true “majors,” the Gatornationals. “When you have Vance & Hines’ stuff, you unload the bike and know you have a real chance to win,” he said. “These bikes should never be out of the top half.”

After just a handful of test passes in Bradenton and Gainesville, Reed sped straight down the groove to a 6.98 at 191 mph in Pro Stock Motorcycle’s first qualifying session of 2021. The former Rookie of the Year, who ran three races with his own power last year and went rounds at two of them, got only better from there, first with a 6.87/197 that catapulted him temporarily from the bubble to the top half of the field, and then with a 6.83 at 198.61 mph that planted him right in the middle of the pack.

“Yeah, I ran a 6.83,” Reed said, “but the 60-foot was only 1.09. I mean, 1.09? That’s terrible. If I was 1.05 or 1.06 in 60, that easily would have been a 6.79 – maybe a .77 or even a .76. You lose that much in the first 60 feet, it affects everything else. It just kills the rest of the run.”

Solidly in the middle of the field when eliminations commenced, Reed dropped a first-round match to reigning U.S. Nationals champ Scotty Pollacheck, against whom he had a winning record, 6.83/196 to 6.87/195. “I lost, but I can tell Vance & Hines really cares about what we’re doing here,” he said. “It’s not like they just dropped off the bikes and said, ‘Here you go.’ [Four-time world champion] Eddie [Krawiec] and [six-time champ] Andrew [Hines] were right there for every run. I was thoroughly impressed. Terry Vance himself came up after the race and said, ‘Good job, boys,’ and that meant a lot.”

For Reed, the future is now. “If we don’t win at least one national event this year, I won’t be happy,” he said, “I want to win a couple and contend for a championship. Finishing 5th, 6th, 7th would be OK, I guess, but if I ended up third or something like that … that’s what we’re really trying to do. We want go after the record and win races, and now we have the power to do it.”

TAFC – GAINESVILLE NATIONAL 2021

Belle Rose winner Annie Whiteley opened qualifying with back-to-back 5.49s – one at 269 mph (top speed to that point) and the other at 268 – but at the Gatornationals, where two-thirds of the field was in the .40s, 5.49s didn’t get you very far. In last-shot qualifying, two pair after A/Fuel driver Jasmine Salinas miraculously survived a horrifying over-the-wall 250-mph tumble, Whiteley shook and shut off, settling for sixth on the nine-car grid.

“It wasn’t that the car overpowered the track,” she said. “It was a weak shake, actually – the track was better than it had been all weekend, and the tires really grabbed. Plus, for some reason, the clutch didn’t wear evenly that time – it just wore on the inside. We still don’t know why.”

Prepping for a first-round showdown with Bob McCosh, whom Whiteley barely beat in the Belle Rose final and narrowly lost to last week here at the regional, the YNot Racing/J&A Service team realized that the rear tires had grown two inches in circumference, effectively changing the rear-end ratio and totally throwing off their combination. “We didn’t notice it until right before we went to the lanes,” she said. “And at that point, you really can’t just throw a brand-new set on there, can you?”

Stuck with the old tires and facing, for once, a faster-qualified car, crew chief Mike Strasburg had to make his best guess on the tuneup. He wasn’t far off. Whiteley left on McCosh and sped to a 5.52 at 269.40 mph – top speed of the entire round – but he tracked her down with a 5.49/268, crossing the stripe first by just 1/50th of a second.

“It’s frustrating,” said Whiteley, who has now raced McCosh at every race this year. “When the guys got down to the top end to pick me up, Mike told me, ‘The car’s not responding to anything I’m doing.’ We really haven’t struggled like this in a long time. I mean, 5.52 is all it would run.”

PRO MOD – GAINESVILLE 2021

Down to his last shot to get in, two-time NHRA world champion Jim Whiteley deftly guided his new ’69 Camaro down Gainesville Raceway’s treacherous left lane and into the Gatornationals Pro Mod field under the lights Saturday night. Minutes later, others wouldn’t fare so well: Whiteley’s crew chief, 2019-20 NHRA world champ Stevie Jackson, failed to qualify by two-thousandths of a second, and Brandon Pesz had it much worse, veering across the track at 200+ mph and careening into Dustin Nesloney in a fiery crash that destroyed both cars.

Under pressure, Whiteley drove his J&A/YNot Racing team into eliminations at the first race of the 2021 NHRA season with a 5.826 at 246.17 mph. He barely made it, 16th in the 16-car qualified field and just ahead of “Stevie Fast’s” indistinguishable 5.828/246.84. But had Whiteley gone the distance from the bump, it wouldn’t have been unprecedented – for him. The former Top Alcohol Dragster champ won Pro Mod at Houston five years ago from the No. 18 spot, slipping into the field as an alternate for Sidnei Frigo, who survived a horrifying high-speed qualifying crash that ended upside-down in a muddy ditch.

At Gainesville, Whiteley motored to a competitive 5.88 at 243 mph on his first qualifying attempt and picked up to a quicker and faster but ultimately disappointing 5.87/243 Saturday morning that left him just outside the field. The sun was down and darkness had long set in when he came through with the 5.82, then looked on helplessly as others pushed it to the limit – and, in Pesz’s case, over the limit – trying in vain to bump him out.

Race day ended early Sunday morning when Whiteley, victimized by his own intensity, disqualified himself as he never had before. He staged first, and, when it was time to leave, reacted to a corner of the Tree that had nothing to do with him: opponent Justin Bond’s staged light. When it came on, Whiteley took off. Bond, who’d qualified No. 1 with a national record 5.638, cruised unopposed to a 5.72 win, and one pair later eventual winner Jose Gonzalez swiped his record with a new all-time best of 5.621.

TAFC – GAINESVILLE REGIONAL 2021

In a scene eerily reminiscent of the 2019 Gainesville regional opener, where, shockingly, Annie Whiteley didn’t qualify, she found herself on the wrong side of the bump spot once again as time wound down. Eleventh of 11 potential qualifiers two years ago, she stood ninth of nine this time – the only driver not in the field – when Top Alcohol Funny Car was called to the lanes for last-shot qualifying.

With everything on the line, Whiteley’s YNot/J&A Service Camaro shook the tires and kicked itself sideways for an instant right before the 1-2 shift, but she deftly short-shifted to save the run and charged through the back half to a 5.61 at 267 mph to easily make the cut. “You think you’re good, you’re definitely gonna make it, everything’s fine, and all of a sudden it’s, ‘Oh boy,’ that caught me off guard,” Whiteley said. “I had to drive my ass off. When the car’s moving around that much, it feels like you’re running a 5.30-something and then they tell you it was a 5.60.”

Lined up in the inverse order of their incoming qualifying position, every driver in line behind Whiteley stared down the prospect of a disastrous DNQ but got into the field, too – first Whiteley with the 5.61 that bumped out DJ Cox, then Cox with a 5.44 that erased upstart Rob Pfeister, then Pfeister with a 5.91 that squeaked in ahead of Kris Hool, and finally Hool with a 5.47 that knocked Pfeister back out of the program.

“In a deal like that, you just try not to put everything on your shoulders,” Whiteley said. “You try not to think too much about anything – there’s nothing you can do anyway. Everybody’s telling you, ‘Last shot here, gotta get it in the show,’ but you have to just ignore the pressure and do your thing. When the car’s not going down the track, my guys are pretty good at figuring out why – I knew they’d know what to do.”

They did, but instead of parlaying last-shot heroics into victory, as the team did here at the 2017 Gatornationals, or throwing down the fastest run in Top Alcohol Funny Car history (276.18 mph), as they did last year, her stay in eliminations was short. Returning veteran Bob McCosh, who narrowly lost to Whiteley last week in the Belle Rose final, chose this moment to lay down the quickest, fastest run of his new career – an outstanding 5.44 at 269.83 mph, top speed of the meet to that point and ultimately second only to his subsequent 270.00.

Leaving first and running a 5.54 typically is more than enough to win a round – especially in regional competition and particularly in the first round – but not this time. “That was the smoothest run we made all weekend,” Whiteley said of an otherwise fine 5.54/268 that left her a car-length short in the lights. “It felt good, but I guess that time it wasn’t good enough.”

With everything on the line, Whiteley’s YNot/J&A Service Camaro shook the tires and kicked itself sideways for an instant right before the 1-2 shift, but she deftly short-shifted to save the run and charged through the back half to a 5.61 at 267 mph to easily make the cut. “You think you’re good, you’re definitely gonna make it, everything’s fine, and all of a sudden it’s, ‘Oh boy,’ that caught me off guard,” Whiteley said. “I had to drive my ass off. When the car’s moving around that much, it feels like you’re running a 5.30-something and then they tell you it was a 5.60.”

Lined up in the inverse order of their incoming qualifying position, every driver in line behind Whiteley stared down the prospect of a disastrous DNQ but got into the field, too – first Whiteley with the 5.61 that bumped out DJ Cox, then Cox with a 5.44 that erased upstart Rob Pfeister, then Pfeister with a 5.91 that squeaked in ahead of Kris Hool, and finally Hool with a 5.47 that knocked Pfeister back out of the program.

“In a deal like that, you just try not to put everything on your shoulders,” Whiteley said. “You try not to think too much about anything – there’s nothing you can do anyway. Everybody’s telling you, ‘Last shot here, gotta get it in the show,’ but you have to just ignore the pressure and do your thing. When the car’s not going down the track, my guys are pretty good at figuring out why – I knew they’d know what to do.”

They did, but instead of parlaying last-shot heroics into victory, as the team did here at the 2017 Gatornationals, or throwing down the fastest run in Top Alcohol Funny Car history (276.18 mph), as they did last year, her stay in eliminations was short. Returning veteran Bob McCosh, who narrowly lost to Whiteley last week in the Belle Rose final, chose this moment to lay down the quickest, fastest run of his new career – an outstanding 5.44 at 269.83 mph, top speed of the meet to that point and ultimately second only to his subsequent 270.00.

Leaving first and running a 5.54 typically is more than enough to win a round – especially in regional competition and particularly in the first round – but not this time. “That was the smoothest run we made all weekend,” Whiteley said of an otherwise fine 5.54/268 that left her a car-length short in the lights. “It felt good, but I guess that time it wasn’t good enough.”

In a scene eerily reminiscent of the 2019 Gainesville regional opener, where, shockingly, Annie Whiteley didn’t qualify, she found herself on the wrong side of the bump spot once again as time wound down. Eleventh of 11 potential qualifiers two years ago, she stood ninth of nine this time – the only driver not in the field – when Top Alcohol Funny Car was called to the lanes for last-shot qualifying.

With everything on the line, Whiteley’s YNot/J&A Service Camaro shook the tires and kicked itself sideways for an instant right before the 1-2 shift, but she deftly short-shifted to save the run and charged through the back half to a 5.61 at 267 mph to easily make the cut. “You think you’re good, you’re definitely gonna make it, everything’s fine, and all of a sudden it’s, ‘Oh boy,’ that caught me off guard,” Whiteley said. “I had to drive my ass off. When the car’s moving around that much, it feels like you’re running a 5.30-something and then they tell you it was a 5.60.”

Lined up in the inverse order of their incoming qualifying position, every driver in line behind Whiteley stared down the prospect of a disastrous DNQ but got into the field, too – first Whiteley with the 5.61 that bumped out DJ Cox, then Cox with a 5.44 that erased upstart Rob Pfeister, then Pfeister with a 5.91 that squeaked in ahead of Kris Hool, and finally Hool with a 5.47 that knocked Pfeister back out of the program.

“In a deal like that, you just try not to put it all on your shoulders,” Whiteley said. “You try not to think too much about anything – there’s nothing you can do anyway. Everybody’s telling you, ‘Last shot here, gotta get it in the show,’ but you have to just ignore the pressure and do your thing. When the car’s not going down the track, my guys are pretty good at figuring out why – I knew they’d know what to do.”

They did, but instead of parlaying last-shot heroics into victory, as the team did here at the 2017 Gatornationals, or throwing down the fastest run in Top Alcohol Funny Car history (276.18 mph), as they did last year, her stay in eliminations was short. Returning veteran Bob McCosh, who narrowly lost to Whiteley last week in the Belle Rose final, chose this moment to lay down the quickest, fastest run of his new career – an outstanding 5.44 at 269.83 mph, top speed of the meet to that point and ultimately second only to his subsequent 270.00.

Leaving first and running a 5.54 typically is more than enough to win a round – especially in regional competition and particularly in the first round – but not this time. “That was the smoothest run we made all weekend,” Whiteley said of an otherwise fine 5.54/268 that left her a car-length short in the lights. “It felt good, but I guess that time it wasn’t good enough.”

PRO MOD – DALLAS 2020

Two-time world champion Jim Whiteley, who claimed both of his Pro Mod victories in the Lone Star State and also scored here four times in his Alcohol Dragsters, rolled off the trailer at the NHRA Fall Nationals at the Texas Motorplex with a 5.73 at 248 mph for the No. 6 spot on the provisional grid. He followed with a 5.80-flat and a consistent 5.82 and went into race day solidly in the top half of the field for the second race in a row. He got stuck racing Rickie Smith anyway.

“Trickie Rickie,” winner of multiple NHRA Pro Mod championships and 11 series titles overall, managed to knock out Whiteley’s YNot/J&A Service Corvette again, this time by a closer margin than ever. In a replay of their second-round clash in Gainesville, where Whitely got off the line first, .030 to .060, he drilled Smith’s otherwise respectable .060 reaction time with a clutch .029. He led almost the entire quarter-mile, but Smith inched ahead at the end to prevail by the invisible margin of 1/500th of a second.

“I thought I had him,” Whiteley said. So did everybody not wearing Rickie Smith colors. Factoring in their reaction times, the grizzled old vet got there first by less than a foot, 5.79 to 5.82. Both cars blew through the speed traps at well over 240 mph, but Smith’s sleek 2020 Camaro had every advantage downtrack and steadily, incrementally stretched the lead over the last few hundred feet, 250 mph to 244. “It seems like I run him every weekend,” said Whiteley, who fell to Smith for the third race in a row, including the U.S. Nationals, where he went down in the first round, and Gainesville, where he lost in the quarterfinals.

Without question, Smith’s superior top end speed – 250.78 mph to Whiteley’s 244.74 in his unaerodynamic ’63 Vette – was the deciding factor in an otherwise dead-even contest. “Rickie’s Rickie,” Whiteley said. “He does what he does. He’s tough. He’ll even tell you, ‘Don’t start your car till I do my burnout,’ but it doesn’t matter. Running this car probably costs me 2 miles per hour and 2-3 hundredths every time I go down the track, but no way am I getting rid of it. Hot rods like this are what Pro Mod’s all about to me.”

PRO MOD – GAINESVILLE 2020

At the only Gatornationals ever contested in the Fall and the only one that likely ever will be, two-time NHRA Pro Mod winner Jim Whiteley sailed through qualifying with back-to-back 5.8s, advanced to the middle rounds of eliminations solely on his reflexes, and finally bowed out against career-long nemesis “Trickie Rickie” Smith, the eventual winner, in the quarterfinals.

Whiteley, whose son, Steven, won this race in 2017 on the biggest day of his racing career, cut a killer .026 light and streaked down the track straight and true to a 5.89 at 243.85 mph in the Friday evening session. Saturday afternoon in teams’ only attempt to qualify, he picked up to a 5.86/244 that carried him to the No. 5 position in the final order, his highest all year.

The YNot/J&A Service driver faced Aeromotive owner Steve Matusek, a national event winner himself, in the opening round in Matusek’s first start in a ’20 Mustang that replaced the spectacular turbocharged Tequila Comisario Mustang he destroyed in the first round at Indy in that car’s debut. With a .068 reaction time, Matusek wasn’t exactly late, but Whiteley, reminiscent of his glory days as a Top Alcohol champion, had him all the way with a superior .032 reaction time for a holeshot win.

Matusek’s 5.850 in the unfamiliar new machine was only marginally quicker than Whiteley’s 5.856 in his ’63 ‘Vette, and their reaction times made for a margin of victory of just 11 feet in the traps. For Whiteley, the weekend came to an end in the quarterfinals, when Smith, the former IHRA star and many-time NHRA Pro Mod champ, rumbled to a 5.79/249. Whiteley got loose in low gear, got back in the gas just in case Smith encountered difficulties downtrack, and coasted silently across the finish line four and a half seconds later with a 10.30 at 83 mph.

TAFC – GAINESVILLE 2020

All Annie Whiteley did at the Southeast Regional in Gainesville, Fla., days after winning the 2020 season-opener in Belle Rose, La., was make the fastest Top Alcohol Funny Car run of all time: 276.18 mph. “I had no idea it was that fast,” she said of what’s basically a brand-new car. “It’s kind of picky, actually, almost like the chassis is too stiff. Sometimes it doesn’t want to respond, but it sure did that time.”

After qualifying No. 1 by more than half a tenth with the only run in the 5.30s all weekend, a 5.39 at 274.66 mph (top speed by nearly 5 mph at that point), the new pipe answered crew chief Mike Strasburg’s calls with the first 276+ mph run in NHRA history. More than half of the qualifiers found the 5.40s, but the bump ended up being just a 5.89 by Josh Haskett, who wasn’t around when eliminations got under way.

Instead of Haskett in the opening round, Whiteley, who has perfected the art of drawing inordinately tough first-round opponents despite almost always qualifying near the top, got alternate Ulf Leanders, one of the few Top Alcohol Funny Car racers to ever run in the 5.30s. She upped the NHRA national speed record to 276.18 mph on a 5.43 while the dangerous Leanders fell back with a harmless 6.85.

For the YNot team, already owners of seven of the 10 fastest Top Alcohol Funny Car speeds ever, it all came to crashing down in the semifinals when their temperamental new machine went up in smoke instantly opposite perennial bridesmaid Doug Gordon, who went on to a long-overdue final-round win over Bellemeur. Whiteley may not have left with a second straight victory to start the ’20s, but she did walk away with the pole, low e.t. by a mile, and the fastest speed of all time.

TAFC – GAINESVILLE NATIONAL 2019

Just days after a frustrating outing at the same track that resulted in only the second DNQ of her career, Annie Whiteley and the J&A Service/ YNot Racing Top Alcohol Funny Car team charged back with a solid outing at the Gatornationals, which both she and son Steven won in 2017. She qualified 4th with a blistering 5.44 at 272 mph and advanced to the quarterfinals only to come out on the wrong end of an instant classic opposite career-long nemesis Doug Gordon, the eventual runner-up.

With a safe but competitive 5.56 at nearly 270 mph off the trailer that positioned her in the top half of the show, Whiteley made sure there’d be no repeat of the embarrassing DNQ she suffered a week earlier at the same facility. No. 4 with the 5.44 entering eliminations, she easily moved on to the quarterfinals when opponent Bryan Brown was unable to make it to the lanes for round one. He qualified in the bottom quarter of the field with a 5.63, and would’ve have had a tough time advancing anyway when she laid down 5.45 at 273 mph on the bye.

In the quarterfinals, crew chief Mike Strasburg dialed up a usually unbeatable 5.45, but Gordon got her again with an even better 5.42. “You run a .45, you think you’d win, but I guess that time it wasn’t enough,” Whiteley said. “We still don’t have this new car figured out. What the old car liked, this one doesn’t. Tire pressure, transmission ratio, all these different things – I don’t know what it is, but this is a different car, and it seems to want something different.”

PRO MOD – GAINESVILLE 2019

A disappointing 28th and 29th in the order entering second-day qualifying for the 2019 J&A Service/Pro Mod season opener with respective bests of 8.63 and 10.98, Jim and Steven Whiteley veered in opposite directions. Jim continued on the same trajectory, getting loose and clicking it early for the third time in a row, but son Steven stepped up dramatically to a 5.76 at more than 252 mph that catapulted him all the way to the No. 4 spot on the provisional grid.

Jim’s killer ’69 Chevelle finally made a representative run in last-shot qualifying, an early-shutoff 5.92 that still wasn’t quick enough to make the cut. The two-time world champion and two-time event winner in Pro Mod ended up 26th of 29 in the final order, ahead of friend Clint Satterfield, veteran Chip King, and Mike Castellana, who led the standings for much of the 2017 but crashed this weekend in his first appearance without many-time TAFC world champion Frank Manzo as his crew chief.

Steven made another quantum leap forward in that session, to a blistering 5.71 at 252.28 mph that surprisingly was good for only the No. 9 spot in the quickest field ever (bump: 5.753). “Stevie Fast” Jackson set the pace with the best NHRA Pro Mod run of all time (5.665), Jose Gonzalez set the national speed record (259.31 mph), and six drivers (Steve Matusek, Sidnei Frigo, Pete Farber, Doug Winters, Alex Laughlin, and Erica Enders) ran in the 5.70s and still didn’t qualify.

Steven, who picked up the first national event title of his career at this race in 2017, won the first round over former Top 5 driver Bob Rahaim, who qualified a few thousandths of a second of him with a nearly identical 5.713. The YNot driver coasted across the finish line with a 6.17 at just 157 mph but still advanced easily when Rahaim went into violent shake early in the run and had to lift. He was unable to appear for the second round against “Stevie Fast,” who would go on to lose the final on a holeshot by mentor Todd Tutterow despite resetting his own national record with an unbelievable 5.643.

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