Tag: Jim (Page 1 of 6)

TAFC – LAS VEGAS NATIONAL

In her first final-round appearance opposite Doug Gordon since their historic Dallas duel in 2017, Annie Whiteley fell just short in the NHRA Nevada Nationals final, 5.47/265 to 5.51/265. “This is one time I’m actually fine with a runner-up,” said Whiteley, who’s achieved massive success this year in MWDRS competition but not much in her infrequent appearances on the NHRA tour. “This is the first time we’ve gotten out of the second round at a national event all year.”

Husband Jim Whiteley’s J&A Service/YNot Racing Camaro continues to struggle in the back half, but Annie’s car was strong all weekend, from an off-the-trailer 5.49 at 268 mph in the first qualifying session right through the final. She stormed to a 5.52/267 mph in the opening round against veteran Nick Januik, whose lone national event victory came early in his career right here at his hometown track, blatantly red-lighted away any shot at a second Vegas title.

In the middle rounds of eliminations, Annie mowed down a pair of longtime nemeses, past national event winners Brian Hough and Chris Marshall, to move into her first NHRA final since she fell to Hough at the 2019 SpringNationals in Houston. She and Hough left almost simultaneously, and she powered away from him with every shift for a convincing 5.48/268 to 5.57/264 win. Returning the favor from their first-round match here in 2015, she then trounced Marshall on a huge holeshot in the semi’s, 5.55/264 to 5.45/266, before dropping the tight final-round decision to Gordon, who kept himself alive for the 2022 championship with a crucial win.

“So many crappy things have happened to us at NHRA races this year,” Whiteley said, “it’s nice to have something go our way for once. It’s just been one gremlin after another – smoking the tires when the tune-up should’ve been fine, blower studs breaking and letting out all the boost for no reason, and the command module quitting first round at Dallas, when I was way ahead. Hopefully, that bad luck is gone for good now.”

TAFC – DALLAS

The Fall Nationals, home of some of the truly unforgettable weekends in both Jim and Annie Whiteley’s careers, was anything but in 2022. This year, Dallas, where Jim scored three times in Top Alcohol Dragster (2008-12-13) and Annie was part of the quickest side-by-side race in Top Alcohol Funny Car history (5.37-5.38 opposite Doug Gordon in the 2017 final), ended in first-round frustration for both drivers.

In just their fourth NHRA national event appearance of the season (following Norwalk, Brainerd, and Indy) both members of drag racing’s premier husband-and-wife team were gone after a single round of eliminations, Jim in a match anybody else would’ve lost too and Annie in a heartbreaker she had in the bag.

After stringing together solid back-to-back qualifying runs (5.54/264 and 5.57/261), Jim found himself up against one of the top two Top Alcohol Funny Car drivers of the past five years, 2020 world champion Doug Gordon, who was all but out of title contention a few weeks ago but now finds himself very much back in it. It didn’t last long. Jim got off the line with the known leaver but overpowered the track in low gear while Gordon, fresh off a win at the St. Louis regional, drove away to a 5.51/267 win he desperately needs to chase down Shane Westerfield for the 2022 championship.

Annie positively drilled first-round opponent Kris Hool on the Tree and couldn’t possibly have lost unless something mechanical went wrong. Something mechanical went wrong: the car shut itself off. She and Hool staged simultaneously – always a difficult prospect because both drivers think they’re staging first but in effect are actually staging last. Annie maintained her composure for a clutch .033 light that had her a car-length ahead of Hool, who flinched for a .157 but advanced anyway when Annie’s car inexplicably shut itself off at the top of low gear, spewing unburned fuel out the headers as she looked on helplessly while he drove around her and into the quarterfinals.

TAFC – TULSA

Any doubt that Jim and Annie Whiteley’s J&A Service/YNot Racing Camaros are identically prepared (if there ever was any) was put permanently to rest on a single qualifying run at the Mid-West Drag Racing Series’ Throwdown at T-Town.

Husband and wife blasted off the Tulsa Raceway Park starting line within 1/200th of a second of each other and charged down the strip side by side with nearly identical performances right to the end: .954 to .955 in 60 feet, 2.46 to 2.46 to the 330-foot mark, and matching 3.628s at the finish line, with Jim crossing the stripe going half a mile-per-hour faster, 213.47 to Annie’s 212.96.

A day after the rescheduled Great Bend Nationals were completed, the biggest weekend of the eight-race MWDRS season continued with the Throwdown, which, as was the case a day earlier, went better for Annie than it did for Jim. By a single position (on the speed tiebreaker), he had the edge in qualifying in what turned out to be the quickest field in MWDRS Funny Car history. The entire field was in the 3.60s, from pole sitter Chris Marshall’s 3.61 to No. 6 Bill Bernard’s more than respectable 3.69.

Those 3.60s came to a screeching halt in the first round of eliminations, when only Marshall and Annie maintained their consistency. Annie had low E.T. of the entire round in a 3.64/212 win over Colorado’s Steve Macklyn, who gave it his best shot with telepathic .009 reaction time in a losing 3.71/204 effort.

Texan Bryan Brown, who eliminated Jim in the opening round, 3.71/206 to 3.79/198, did Bernard one better in the semi’s with an ever quicker .00 light against Annie – a near-perfect .001. Annie was on time with a solid .059, but Brown put together his best run of the weekend for a tight 3.63/210 win over her fast-closing 3.64/213, then lost to Marshall in the final.

TAFC – MARTIN

Both J&A Service/YNot Racing Funny Cars – Jim Whiteley’s spotless white machine and wife Annie’s familiar blue one – were taken out by the same car at the U.S. 131 Nationals, the flamed Camaro of 2021 Mid-West Drag Racing Series runner-up Chris Marshall. Everything was wide-open in the absence of reigning series champion Sean Bellemeur, and Marshall made the most of it, starting with a wheels-up, nearly aborted 3.58 in qualifying that was on the ragged edge of control from start to finish.

Jim ended up fourth and nearly pulled off an outrageous first-round upset with a massive holeshot, falling just short of Marshall in the lights by the invisible margin of two-thousandths of a second. Annie put away Steve Macklyn’s Ford Mustang in the other opening-round matchup and in the final just missed pulling off what Jim almost did had: beating Marshall on a holeshot.

But instead of a perfect .000 light, Annie, who has really come into her own on the Tree this year, red-lighted by mere thousandths of a second with a frustrating -.002 reaction time. With the race lost, she shut off early and coasted across the eighth-mile finish line at 88 mph with what would’ve been a great E.T. on a quarter-mile (5.52), while the Oregon-based driver, who reverted to an old setup for this race after a disappointing U.S. Nationals, sped to a 3.62 at a booming 212.06 mph. For Annie, who qualified No. 1 here last year, it was her second runner-up in a row at the revamped Martin, Mich., facility.         

The 2022 Mid-West Drag Racing Series season wraps up with another double event in Tulsa (not unlike the rained-out Memphis event that was finished in conjunction with the regularly scheduled Tulsa event this spring). It all unfolds Oct. 7-8 at Osage Casino & Hotel Tulsa Raceway Park, where the cancelled Great Bend Nationals will be contested as part of the traditional Throwdown in T-Town MWDRS season finale.

TAFC – INDY

The U.S. Nationals, site of one of Jim Whiteley’s greatest victories ever (Top Alcohol Dragster in 2013) and three final-round appearances in four years for wife Annie (Top Alcohol Funny Car in 2012, 2013, and 2015) turned out to be an exercise in frustration this year. Husband and wife ran head-to-head in the first qualifying session, left almost simultaneously, and posted virtually identical E.T.s – 5.625 and 5.627, respectively – but from there it all went downhill.

“The car’s just not running right,” said Jim, who fell in the opening round to eventual winner Sean Bellemeur’s 5.48/266 (low E.T. of the meet to that point). “It won’t run on the other end. We thought we had it all figured out at Brainerd, but, obviously, we don’t.”

Annie got quicker as qualifying progressed but also found herself on the sidelines before round two. After the matching 5.62s on altogether dissimilar runs – Jim coasted across the finish line at just 245.90 mph and Annie charged through the traps going 20 mph faster (265.48) – her blue J&A Service/YNot racing Camaro improved to a 5.61/264 and then to a much quicker 5.54/265 Saturday afternoon. Over the same span, Jim’s matching white machine improved only marginally, to a 5.60-flat at 261 mph that left him in the slow half of the field, 14th overall.

Though they were only six-hundredths of a second apart, Annie qualified eight spots higher than Jim in the final order, a solid No. 6. Two pair behind him in a first-round rematch of the 2015 final against Andy Bohl, she blasted off the line first but was dead in the water 100 feet out while Bohl pedaled to a beatable 5.82. “After we saw what Jim’s car did, we made adjustments to mine,” she said. “I don’t know what happened, but whatever we did, it didn’t like it.”

One positive was that with a .058 reaction time, Annie had the edge at the Tree with one of many .050s and better this season, indicating that any past problems are now a thing of the past. “We poured a new seat, and I’m comfortable in the car,” she said. “I feel good now. That’s all I needed.”

TAFC – BRAINERD

Jim and Annie Whiteley, perpetually in lockstep in their personal and professional lives, have become, in a particularly exasperating development for both, just as inseparable on the quarter-mile.

In his short tenure as a Top Alcohol Funny Car driver, Jim somehow has faced off against wife Annie more than he has all other drivers combined. On a 10-car eliminator ladder, No. 4 runs No. 7 first round, and when Annie ended Lucas Oil Nationals qualifying 4th with a 5.52/266, guess where Jim’s 5.56/261 put him? Right: 7th.

“If it was a final round, that’d be fine – one of us would win the race,” Jim said of their latest head-to-head clash. “This? No thanks. But what are we going to do about it?” They’ve already faced each other at Mid-West Drag Racing Series events and in Lucas Oil regional competition, so in Jim’s first official TAFC round at an NHRA national event, why not here too?

One pair before Doug Gordon’s violent top-end crash opposite eventual winner Shane Westerfield in a titanic showdown between the first- and second-ranked drivers in the national standings, Jim and Annie left within thousandths of a second of each other, with Annie out first, .059 to .063. It was over soon after when her car blew the tires off while his motored to a smooth 5.57.

“I’ve still only made only 16 or 17 runs in a Funny Car – definitely under 20,” Jim said, “and I’m getting more comfortable every time. I love driving it, always have. You just have to stay after this thing right to the end instead of locking your left arm in low gear like you do in a Pro Mod.

“I think it needed a little more timing in the back half – that’s why we were down several mph at the top end,” said Jim, who won back-to-back Top Alcohol Dragster titles here in 2011 and 2012. “We thought we had it figured out before the second round, and that probably should have been the best run I’ve ever made – 5.51 or .52.”

To compound his frustration, opponent Bob McCosh blew the engine on his single, so Jim almost certainly would’ve made his first Funny Car semifinal appearance in NHRA competition, if not his first final. “It’s OK,” he said. “It’s fixed now. That’s not happening again.”

TAFC – ST. LOUIS

Jim Whiteley, who’s won big in Pro Mod and won it all, multiple times, in Top Alcohol Dragster, is fast closing in on a first major title in a third different category, Top Alcohol Funny Car. The two-time national event winner in NHRA Pro Mod and two-time world champion in Top Alcohol Dragster just missed winning the Mid-West Drag Racing Series’ Summer Speed Spectacular, outdriving the hands-down best Funny Car driver out there, Sean Bellemeur, in the final.

Just across the Mississippi River from downtown St. Louis at multipurpose World Wide Technology Raceway, Whiteley narrowly lost to the toughest possible opponent, Bellemeur, the current MWDRS points leader and reigning series champion in both the MWDRS and NHRA series. “He left on me and had me beat,” Bellemeur admitted. “He’s going to be really, really successful in that Funny Car.”

Whiteley wasn’t so sure. “This thing’s a challenge,” he said of his new ride. “Having them lower the body down over you and having the transmission running between your legs doesn’t bother me, but even though I have a clutch pedal and rev it up on the starting line, driving a Funny Car is not the same as driving an Alcohol Dragster or a Pro Mod. At all. None of that experience helps at all.”

With a 3.68 at 210.47 mph, Whiteley wheeled his J&A Service/YNot Racing entry to an easy first-round win over 2021 MWDRS championship runner-up Chris Marshall, who broke, then won a round he didn’t particularly want to win, over his least-favorite opponent ever – his wife, Top Alcohol Funny Car veteran Annie Whiteley. He got out first with a clutch .042 reaction time and hung on to edge her slightly quicker 3.66 with a 3.67.

An almost identical .048 light in the final gave Whiteley a noticeable holeshot lead on Bellemeur, but Bellemeur narrowly ran down his event-best 3.66 at just 207 mph with a much quicker and faster 3.61/213 for a photo-finish win. “It had to be close,” Whiteley said. “I still only have 12 hits in this thing, and I’m still learning every time out, but I can say one thing without a doubt: this Funny Car is harder to drive than anything I’ve ever driven before.”

TAFC – TULSA

In the afterglow of the rescheduled Memphis race finished at Tulsa Raceway Park, one of the best overall events in team history, the Throwdown in T-Town turned out to be a major disappointment for YNot Racing, especially in Top Alcohol Funny Car, where both Annie and Jim Whiteley were upended in the first round.

Annie, who has a lifetime win-loss record of 14-4 (.778) in Tulsa, blew the tires off at the hit and fell to former nitro Funny Car racer Steve Macklyn, and Jim did likewise two pair later opposite second-generation driver Brian Brown. Macklyn’s and Brown’s winning times (3.77 and 3.95, respectively) only made the losses even more grating – neither was close to the Whiteleys’ qualifying performances, and both were gone one round later.

“We finished Memphis here, and the first and second round counted as the second and third qualifying runs for Tulsa,” Annie said. “We got an extra run because we were in the final [of the rescheduled Memphis event], and after that, I think it all got a little confusing for everybody.”

Annie qualified No. 3 for the Throwdown in T-Town with a 3.66 at 211.56 mph – quicker and faster than she’d just run to win the rescheduled Memphis event. Jim, racing his beautiful white Camaro for just the second time, wasn’t far behind, but neither cracked the six-second mark on the eighth-mile course in their brief stay in eliminations.

“You just won the Memphis race, and now you’re nothing?” asked Annie, who won back-to-back NHRA regionals here in in 2012 and 2013 and reached the final a third straight time in 2014. “Sometimes, I guess that’s just how it goes: in a few hours you really can go from a hero to a zero, just like they say. I don’t know what the hell happened up there – the car just didn’t make it that time. It took the tire off. Jim’s car did the exact same thing, and we didn’t change a thing on either one.”

PRO MOD – LAS VEGAS 2021

Laser-focused on the burgeoning Mid-West Drag Racing Series all year, Jim Whiteley simultaneously pieced together a successful season in his infrequent appearances on the NHRA tour. Whiteley, who barely missed winning the 2021 MWDRS Pro Mod championship, finished just outside the NHRA Top 10 despite skipping nearly half the races (5 of 11).

On his first qualifying run at the 11th and final event of this year’s NHRA series, the Dodge NHRA Nationals in Las Vegas, Whiteley’s sleek ’69 Camaro shook hard and coasted silently across finish line at 100 mph. Saturday afternoon in the second and third sessions, he pounded out two runs as close to each other as any two runs have ever been: .968-.970 at the 60-foot mark, 2.574-2.574 at 330 feet, 3.857-3.855 to half-track at 192.11-192.30 mph, 4.957-4.954 at 1,000 feet, and 5.886-5.882 at 242.06-242.36 mph across the finish line.

The first one, recorded early Saturday afternoon, put him eighth in the order, and the follow-up, recorded in the gathering gloom of dusk that evening, was truly a thing of beauty. Wheels up, charging hard through the middle of the course, it was, barley, his quickest pass of the weekend, but it still didn’t improve his standing in the final lineup. He wound up ninth in the final order, matched against teammate Brandon Snider in the bright sunlight of Sunday morning’s first round of eliminations.

Once again, Whiteley made his quickest run of the entire event, but Snider did him one better at both ends of the dragstrip. Whiteley cut a .042 light, but Snider nipped him with a slightly quicker .031, and when Whiteley picked up considerably from his best qualifying time (four-hundredths of a second and 2 mph, from 5.88/242 to 5.84/244), Snider picked up even more (four-hundredths and 3 mph, from 5.83/244 to 5.79/247) to win by a car-length.

“We’ve got some big plans for next year,” Whiteley said. “All kinds of plans. With all kinds of people and all kinds of cars. That’s all I’m going to say right now. But trust me, it’s gonna be good.”

PRO MOD – FERRIS 2021

Of all the lousy ways to lose a championship, having your car accidentally shut itself off halfway through an in-the-bag win is way up there. Jim Whiteley’s longshot bid for the 2021 Mid-West Drag Racing Series Pro Mod title officially disintegrated in the very first round of the last race of the year when his normally bulletproof Leahy safety system inadvertently silenced the car, handing the championship to young Joey Oksas.

Up to that point, everything was shaping up for a deep run into eliminations for Whiteley’s J&A Service/YNot Racing team – he led all Xtreme Texas World Finals qualifiers with an outstanding 3.69 at nearly 203 mph (Oksas was No. 2) and thus drew the slowest driver in the field, Todd Moyer, in the first round. If he made it through that one – and there was absolutely no reason to think he wouldn’t – he’d have a second-round bye run straight into the semifinals.

Oksas had a commanding lead coming into the event, sure, but the opportunity for a last-ditch championship run was still on the table for Whiteley. He killed the Tree with a .020 reaction time, gaining a noticeable early lead Moyer’s sleepy .105 … and then looked on helplessly when his car quit on him. “It was perfect,” he said. “The front end was up, the car was hauling ass, and then it just went dead.” He slowed to a 6.26 at only 73 mph, dragging the chutes across the finish line long after Moyer had sailed past him to a winning 3.79/200.

It cost Whiteley the round and maybe the race – almost certainly the race – but, honestly, probably not the championship. Only some Hail Mary would have kept Oksas, safely ensconced on the far side of the ladder, from another late-round appearance, and nothing Whiteley could have done, including winning the event, would have been enough to overtake him.

Oksas, qualified No. 2, directly opposite Whiteley on the grid, drove his Jeff Pierce-tuned Mustang to another final, where he was upset by, of all people, Moyer, who’d never won a race until this weekend. But finishing the season with five straight final-round appearances left Whiteley, who wound up second in the final standings, no room for error. “It would’ve taken a miracle,” Whiteley said. “He was too far ahead of me. Good for him. He’s a good kid – he deserved it.”

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