Tag: Jim (Page 1 of 6)

TAFC – MARTIN

Both J&A Service/YNot Racing Funny Cars – Jim Whiteley’s spotless white one and wife Annie’s familiar blue machine – 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 champion Sean Bellemeur, and Marshall made the most of it, starting with a wheels-up, nearly aborted 3.58 that was on the ragged edge of control from beginning to end.

Jim qualified No. 4 and nearly pulled off an outrageous upset with a massive holeshot in the first round, falling just short of Marshall in the lights by the invisible margin of two-thousandths of a second. Annie put away Steve Macklyn’s Mustang in the other first-round matchup and in the final round just missed doing what Jim almost did in the opening round: beat 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 a couple 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.”

PRO MOD – DALLAS 2021

At the NHRA Fall Nationals, site of some of the most unforgettable days of Jim Whiteley’s long, prolific Top Alcohol Dragster career, he qualified the highest he has all season in Pro Mod – sixth, the same spot he landed at Indy but with a run a tenth of a second quicker. Only this time, he didn’t parlay that performance into success on race day, instead being upset in the first round by No. 11 seed Chad Green.

Whiteley, who shut off to a 9.40 on his initial attempt, lowered the boom Friday night with a 5.80 at 246.39 mph that catapulted him straight to the top of the order at the time. Crew chief “Stevie Fast” Jackson kept Whiteley’s immaculate ’69 Camaro in range for the duration of the event, but the car trended in the wrong direction, slowing ever so slightly each time down the Motorplex quarter-mile. Following a competitive 5.81/245 Saturday (coincidentally against Khalid alBalooshi, who tied Whiteley’s 5.806 right to the thousandth of a second but nipped him for the No. 5 spot with a better speed), Whiteley remained consistent on his next and last attempt with a steady 5.83/246.

In the first round against Green, a former national event champ who’d never beaten the YNot/J&A Service team, Whiteley fell backward another hundredth of a second and dropped a couple mph in speed. That’s all it took. He was two-hundredths of a second quicker than Green to the 60-foot mark (.958-.979) and four-hundredths quicker to 330 (2.553-2.595), but by half-track any edge he had was long gone.

Green had him by a thousandth of a second at that point, 3.830-3.831, and his nitrous-powered 900 cubic-inch behemoth drove away from Whiteley’s blown-alcohol setup with a significant half-track speed advantage, 198 mph to 192. Whiteley’s slowest full run of the weekend, a solid but unspectacular 5.84/243, would have won all kinds of rounds this year, but Green took a huge leap forward with by far his best run of the entire weekend, 5.79/247, to win going away.

PRO MOD – TULSA 2021

As the back-loaded Mid-West Drag Racing Series season barrels toward another nail-biting conclusion, Jim Whiteley kept himself in contention for the 2021 Pro Mod championship, barely, with a huge weekend at Tulsa Raceway Park.

Inclement weather this summer postponed multiple events, forcing MWDRS officials to make the Throwdown in T-Town, already one of the biggest events on the calendar, a doubleheader – three days, two races, double the points, and double the purse for the same travel. Whiteley starred all weekend, driving his supercharged split-window Corvette to both finals, but both times he came away empty-handed, with no wins and two more runner-ups.

The two-time NHRA Top Alcohol Dragster world champ, 23-7 in national event finals in that category and 2-0 lifetime in NHRA Pro Mod finals, collected more round-wins over the extended weekend (six) than anyone, but he still can’t seem to buy a MWDRS win. He finished second for the second and third times this season, narrowly red-lighting in the Friday final against points leader Joey Oksas, and, for once, flat-out getting outrun in the Saturday final against series founder Keith Haney.

In the first race, held Thursday and Friday, Whiteley led all qualifiers with a 3.709, two-thousandths of a second ahead of Ed Thornton’s 3.711 but 18 mph slower on the top end, 219 to 201. He plowed through Chris Juliano, Rob Gallegos, and Haney in the preliminary rounds, but, plagued by -.00 red-lights all year, was undone by another one in the final. An infuriating -.003 foul start nullified his excellent 3.69/203 and made a winner of Oksas’ early-shutoff 4.14/134.

Qualifying for the second race commenced immediately, and when it was over Whiteley was third in the order and well on his way to another final-round appearance. Haney entered eliminations with the upper hand, No. 1 with a 3.67 that placed him just ahead of the matching 3.69s of Oksas, Whiteley, and 2020 series champ Ron Muenks.

Whiteley ran quicker than anybody in the opening round (3.70), then proceeded to erase Zach Barklage in the quarterfinals and, for easily his biggest round-win of the 2021 MWDRS season, Oksas in a crucial semifinal showdown that made him the first to beat the suddenly unbeatable upstart in the past 14 rounds.

In the final round opposite Haney, Whiteley rolled in first, turned it green, and was right there all the way with a strong 3.68/202, but Haney’s sinister-looking nitrous-powered machine got around him at the top end with a superior 3.67/207, relegating Whiteley to runner-up for the third time in MWDRS competition this year.

PRO MOD – MARTIN 2021

Sometimes Jim Whiteley’s a little too quick for his own good. Nobody’s really beating him. He’s beating himself, barely, and in the most infuriating possible manner – on red-lights that aren’t that red.

He’s not screwing up some part the delicate staging process, not distracted, not choking under pressure. Like Top Fuel great Antron Brown in his final days on a Pro Stock Bike, Whiteley’s seeing yellow, reacting, and missing not just a decent light but a perfect light by just a fraction of a second.

It happened again at the Mid-West Drag Racing Series’ U.S. 131 Nationals in Martin, Mich., and this one was particularly grating because it came in the first round and really compromised his shot at the 2021 championship. Like always, it was a round Whiteley absolutely would’ve won with almost any kind of green-light start, and, like always, it was by the narrowest possible margin – eight-thousandths of a second.

After another late-round finish last month in Kansas – he’s gone rounds at six races in a row and reached at least the semifinals at every MWDRS event this year – Whiteley hit Martin with a narrow three-point lead over Great Bend winner Joey Oksas, 287 to 284. Tulsa champ Jon Stouffer and Ed Thornton came in about 30 points back, but after his Grand Bend crash, Stouffer effectively is out of the title hunt.

The J&A Service/YNot Racing team’s own championship hopes took a huge hit when Whiteley’s surprise first-round loss was compounded by the fact that his closest challenger, Oksas, capitalized with a second straight victory, topping series founder Keith Haney in the final.

Whiteley, who qualified No. 1 at Grand Bend, was just sixth this time, one of five drivers to qualify with a 3.70-flat. He was ahead of two and behind the other two with a 3.703 at 203.62 mph that tied Oksas to the thousandth of a second. Haney paced the field with an outstanding 3.666, and Judd Coffman established top speed at 207.56 mph despite qualifying just ninth.

Eliminations for Whiteley came to an abrupt end in the first round when he voided a potentially winning 3.75/200, one of the quickest runs of the round, with the -.008 red-light start, advancing Tom Ladisky’s 3.81/192. Despite the brutal early loss, a championship remains a distinct possibility, with a double at Tulsa later this month and the Xtreme Texas World Finals set for Ferris Oct. 22-23.

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