Tag: MWDRS (Page 1 of 4)

TAFC – TULSA

Annie Whiteley’s first victory of 2024 was just her latest at Tulsa Raceway Park, where she’s been winning since she first started racing Funny Cars back in 2012. Her final-round victim this time: husband Jim Whiteley, who just missed a perfect light with a -.002 red-light that handed the Mid-West Drag Racing Series’ Throwdown in T-Town title to his all-time favorite driver.

“I was late going down on the pedal, which usually means you’re going to be late, and I had my worst light of the whole weekend,” she said. It was, but that worst all weekend was a not-bad .060. “I was excited to win, but it still sucked because I don’t want Jim to lose – especially like that.”

Annie, who’d qualified second, third, and fourth in her previous starts this season – all on the quarter-mile in NHRA competition – reigned supreme at Tulsa, where she locked down her first No. 1 qualifying spot of 2024 with an outstanding 3.62 at just short of 212 mph, top speed by more than three and a half miles per hour. Driving a matching J&A Service/YNot Racing Camaro dressed in white, Jim tied friend Steve Macklyn right down to the thousandth of a second for No. 2 with identical 3.632 E.T.s but got the higher position on the basis of his faster speed, 208.30 mph to Macklyn’s 207.59.

In the first round, Annie ripped off a 3.63/211, nearly matching her Low E.T./Top Speed marks from qualifying, to erase veteran Lance Van Hauen, then breezed through the semifinals to meet Jim. He had a much tougher road to the final, topping Bryan Brown in the opening round, 3.64/206 to 3.87/200, and surviving a memorable matchup with Macklyn in the semifinals. Both cut near-perfect .00 lights and both ran 3.66s, but Jim was a little better on both ends of the track, .003 to .006 and 3.664 to 3.669, for a narrow win.

“You get down to the final in these Mid-West races and you’d better bring everything you’ve got,” Annie said. “The track’s kind of iffy for testing on Thursday, then it’s getting pretty good on Friday, and by Saturday it’s a lot better. I don’t know what they do or how they do it, but they just keep working on it all weekend and it’s perfect by Saturday night.”

Annie produced a 3.63 in the final and Jim a 3.65, but their times meant nothing when he went red by 1/500th of a second. “I don’t know why, but I always seem to do my best against Jim,” said Annie, who had a perfect .000 reaction time earlier in the weekend. Topping off a memorable weekend, Annie’s grandson Breccan won the Jr. Dragster title and shared a toast with dad Steven – a Dr. Pepper for him and a beer for Dad.

PRO MOD – FERRIS 2023

Steven Whiteley’s dreams of a Pro Mod championship came crashing down with a red-light start at the final race of the 2023 Mid-West Drag Racing Series season, but not before he’d pushed the title fight to the absolute limit. “We’re still holding our heads high,” said Whiteley, who came into this race just five points out of the lead. “We battled all year and overcame a lot. It was a hell of a comeback story, crashing at one race [Martin] and coming back to win the next one [Tulsa].”

At the MWDRS World Finals in Ferris, Texas, Whiteley and crew chief Brandon Snider clawed their way to the brink of overtaking season-long points leader Keith Haney, but with a near-miss -.013 foul start in the quarterfinals, it wasn’t to be. “I had that one in the bag,” Whiteley said. “I beat myself, took us right out of the race. I just pushed too hard, and I didn’t even need to.”

Whiteley matched his excellent 3.66 qualifying time with another 3.66 in round one that wiped out Mike Labbate and gave him a decided performance advantage over former series champion Aaron Wells in the second round, a round he absolutely had to have to take down Haney. “The car was hauling ass all weekend,” Whiteley said. “We were working hard all night to maintain lane choice, and I tried to string a few lights together to maybe intimidate Haney a little. All year, whenever we’d back up and play it safe we didn’t do as well as if we’d just kept getting after it every run, so Brandon got after it and I did, too.”

Whiteley invalidated what would’ve been a winning 3.66 while Wells, who eventually won the race, upsetting Haney on a holeshot in a wild final, mustered only a 3.88. “He had to pedal it, and that made red-lighting hurt even worse,” Whiteley said. “A .66 was a solid run, decent for the conditions and borderline good. It’s not like I had to have some perfect light to win that round; a .060 would have been more than enough.”

Compounding Whiteley’s frustration was that he made it all the way through the eighth-mile traps and well into the shutdown area without ever knowing he’d gone red. “I had no idea,” he said. “Half the guys on the team didn’t know, either. They were all celebrating back on the line, then someone came over the radio and said, ‘Hey, bud. Sorry, he got you.’ I was like, ‘What? He’s not even down here.’ I never saw him.”

Overall, Whiteley and Snider went 21-5 (.807) for the season. “It was a fun battle all year,” Whiteley said. “Between Brandon and I, we wore Haney’s ass out a few times, but hey, he did a good job – not that that makes red-lighting any less bitter. It was a weird year – weird, but good.”

TAFC – FERRIS 2023

For the second year in a row, Jim and Annie Whiteley met in the Top Alcohol Funny Car final at the Mid-West Drag Racing Series World Finals, where last year Jim secured his first win as a Funny Car driver. Annie lost traction, just like last year, but this time it didn’t cost her the race – Jim had even bigger problems in the other lane.

“I haven’t smoked the tires like that in probably five years,” Annie said. “I came completely off the throttle and thought, ‘What the hell was that?’ But then it was like, ‘Wait a minute … Why isn’t he driving away from me?’ and I got back on it.”

The snout on Jim’s converter gave up, knocking him out of the race. “It was charging hard,” he said, “but it gave up right before the gear change, just went ‘bam-bam-bam.’ I got on the brakes when it let go because at first I wasn’t sure what was going on. They got down there to tow me off and the car wouldn’t move; it was locked up. We had to put the car on dollies to get it off the track.”

Jim qualified No. 1, and Annie was No. 2, which set her up with a semifinal match against No. 3 qualifier and former NHRA Division 2 champion Mark Billington in his first race back from a big crash earlier this season. Billington put up a good fight with a solid 3.72 at 206 mph, but Annie left on him, .075 to .084, and put him away with a superior 3.69/213 to advance to another final.

With nearly identical .015 and .018 reaction times, husband and wife both were more than ready when the Tree flashed green. “For some reason – it’s not like I’m not trying just as hard against everybody else – I always do well against Jim,” Annie said. “It blew the tires off and I thought I was out of it, but out of the corner of my I realized I was catching him so I got back on it and ran it to the end. If was funny, actually. The first shift light didn’t come on until I was at the eighth-mile – right where the second one usually comes on.”

PRO MOD – TULSA 2 2023

Steven Whiteley pulled off one of the biggest wins of his Pro Mod career at the Throwdown at T-Town, resurrecting his once-dwindling championship hopes with a narrow semifinal win over yearlong points leader Keith Haney and a crucial final-round decision over Blake Housley. “That,” said Whiteley, whose last race, at Martin, Mich., ended in a crash, “was big.”

Just when it seemed he was out of contention for the Mid-West Drag Series title, Whiteley thrust himself back into it, scoring in the unfamiliar confines of father Jim’s ’63 split-window Corvette. “It’s just messed up, trying to drive a different car like this,” he said. “They’re both Tommy Mauney cars, yeah, but everything’s in a different position in this car. You’re laid back more in the seat, it’s narrower, the trans-brake button is in wrong spot, the pedals are longer … nothing is where it should be.”

As big an obstacle as that clearly was – and as tough as it was to push aside the anxiety from crashing the last time he went down the track – it didn’t keep Whiteley from victory. He and crew chief/co-driver Brandon Snider overcame early qualifying struggles to qualify No. 1 with a 3.63, breezed through the first round, and trounced Tony “Sandman” Williams in the second, 3.64 to 5.88, to set up what he termed “the round of the year,” his semifinal showdown with Haney.

“That was just an awesome race,” Whiteley said. “Three-thousandths of a second in the lights.” He was quicker than Haney off the line and quicker and faster downtrack (barely), moving first by a thousandth of a second, .064 to .065, and outrunning Haney by two-thousandths, 3.617 to 3.619, with a massive top-end charge, 209 mph to 205. Haney was first to the 330-foot mark, 2.41 to 2.43, so it was only in the last few hundred feet that the J&A Service/YNot Racing team’s aging Corvette prevailed.

“This thing was running 209 mph all weekend,” Whiteley said. “209 is pretty mean for a door car. I mean, ’63 Corvettes aren’t the most aerodynamic cars out there, you know? The track was really cooling off for the final and groove was getting tight, so we made sure the track was prepped the same as it was for the semi’s and stayed aggressive with the tune-up. We didn’t back it off at all – just sent it – and hoped the car would run the same as it did.”

It ran exactly as it had a round earlier, another 3.61 at 209 mph, to stop Housley and give Whiteley new life in the championship chase. “I’m still not used to this car,” he said, “but I don’t have the luxury of having everything just the way I want it anymore. We’re trying to win a championship. At some point, you’ve got to just get in and go.”

TAFC – TULSA 2023

Annie Whiteley’s latest Tulsa triumph only added to her legacy of success at the venerable old track in a town she once called home. “I’ve always liked racing here,” said Whiteley, who’s been winning races at Osage Tulsa Raceway Park since NHRA held Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series divisional and regional events here early in her Top Alcohol Funny Car career.

Today, Tulsa is the hub of the Mid-West Drag Racing Series, home to two major MWDRS events every year, including the latest Throwdown in T-Town. After dominating the first Throwdown and scoring at the U.S. 131 Nationals in Martin, Mich., last month, she claimed her third MWDRS victory of 2023 with a final-round decision over veteran Mark Billington, the retired Pepsi/Frito-Lay executive who’s been competitive since the day he bought a used Bob Newberry car more than 20 years ago and became an NHRA Division 2 champion.

“Tulsa is the first place Jim and I and I ever won the same race [in 2012, her rookie season in Top Alcohol Funny Car], and it was just a great weekend for the whole team because we had a lot of family here,” Whiteley said. “We had seven cars here altogether – Jim’s, mine, [son] Steven [Whiteley’s] Pro Mod, the Jrs., and [sister], Anita’s Top Dragster.”

Whiteley qualified No. 2 with an outstanding 3.56 at the ridiculous speed of 215.79 mph, one of her best eighth-mile speeds ever, and trailed only Jim’s 3.54 in the final qualifying order. After taking out Canadian Ryan Stack, driver of veteran Larry Dobbs’ bucks-down machine, in the opening round, Whiteley took on Billington, who was in the midst of a spirited comeback from a nasty crash earlier this year, in the final.

“That had to be one of the smoothest runs this car made all year,” Whiteley said. “It was a clean run, a great side-by-side race. This was Mark’s first race back after the crash and he really ran good. It was great to have him back out here for the first time in a long time and great to win, especially since our whole team was here.”

PRO MOD – MARTIN 2023

What had already been a lousy weekend for Steven Whiteley turned downright dreadful in the first round of Pro Mod eliminations at U.S. 131 Dragway. Disaster struck when Whiteley, who, along with driver/tuner Brandon Snider, has basically been to the final round of every race all year, crashed into Ron Muenks.

Whiteley tested well leading up to the Mid-West Drag Racing Series’ U.S. 131 Nationals in tiny Martin, Mich., but when the race officially began, “everything went to hell,” as he tersely remarked. “We really struggled in qualifying,” he said. “Actually, it was more than ‘struggling.’ It was a complete disaster.” Tenth and last in the short 10-car field with an aggregate best of 4.14 at 126 mph, he lined up to face Muenks, the No. 1 qualifier with an outstanding 3.62/206.

Whiteley, who got plowed into by veteran Todd Tutterow in the first round of the 2019 NHRA Heartland Nationals in Topeka, became embroiled in another two-car crash here, but this one was nothing like Topeka. It was more reminiscent of his qualifying accident at the NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway in 2017.

“It was exactly like Atlanta, actually,” Whiteley said, disgusted. “That’s the first thing I thought when it happened: ‘Atlanta…’ I was in the right lane, just like before, and the car kept working its way over to the right, just like before. I got the front end to come down, and then the car darted left on me.

“I thought I had it,” Whiteley said. “Pulling the chutes was going to save it – I thought. The car was already coming back around and straightening itself out, and I was just going to barely miss him. I knew I could get the front end pointed in the right direction and figured the worst that could happen was that I might pancake the wall, but I got him right between the rear wheel and the spoiler. All of a sudden, he was right there, and there was nothing I could do about it.”

As if tearing up their beautiful ’69 Camaro wasn’t awful enough, this one was doubly tough for Whiteley and the J&A Service/YNot Racing team. On the odd 10-car ladder, the winner of that first-round match with Muenks would have had a second-round bye into the semifinals, and Whiteley’s biggest rival, points leader Keith Haney, capitalized fully by going on to win the race.

PRO MOD – ST. LOUIS 2 2023

Steven Whiteley’s relentless march to the 2023 Mid-West Drag Racing Series championship continued at Worldwide Technology Raceway in a dream weekend in which teammate Brandon Snider (whose points count just the same as if Whiteley himself was driving) made the final of the rescheduled Night of Fire & Thunder Friday night and Whiteley followed with a huge Heads-Up Hootenanny victory on Saturday.

“It’s been a great season,” Whiteley said. “We started coming on strong at the last two races of ’22 – we probably would’ve won Tulsa if we hadn’t shredded all those blower belts – and it’s carried right over to this year.” Since Whiteley finished second in the Chicago-Style Second Chance Shootout at the season-opening Drag Illustrated World Series of Pro Mod, it’s been one final after another: Snider won Tulsa, Whiteley made the final in Noble, Snider got second here, and Whiteley just brought down his biggest win since his career breakthrough at the 2017 NHRA Gatornationals.

Driving father Jim’s immaculate J&A Service ’69 Camaro, Whiteley qualified No. 2 and sailed through the first two rounds of eliminations, dispatching overmatched Robbie Vander Woude’s ’00 Camaro, 3.69/206 to 4.00/194, and Blake Housley’s classic ’41 Willys, 3.66/206 to 3.82/192. The stakes went way up in the semifinals against championship rival Keith Haney, and Snider, Whiteley’s irreplaceable crew chief, was ready for what both knew would be their biggest round so far this season.

Snider, who’d dumped Haney Friday night in a crucial semifinal decision, dialed up Whiteley’s best run of eliminations to that point, and Whiteley did his part behind the wheel, nailing Haney at the line and leading wire to wire for a 3.63/207 to 3.65/206 win that propelled the team into its fifth final of 2023. “That was huge,” Whiteley said. “Haney and I have had a rivalry going all year, the announcers were really playing it up, the crowd was into it, and we got it done again. Brandon beat him Friday night and I got him tonight.”

In the final, Whiteley produced his best run of the weekend, a 3.62/208, against the 217-mph turbocharged ’69 Camaro of No. 1 qualifier Mark Micke, who was coming off a big win the previous evening. Micke blew the engine in a huge cloud of smoke and never came around Whiteley, as he had the night before against Snider. “There was just smoke everywhere,” Whiteley said. “I could see it from inside the car. We’re leading the championship right now and really focused on these last three races. We just have to keep the momentum going.”

TAFC – ST. LOUIS 2023

He may have started at the bottom, but when the figurative smoke cleared, it was Jim Whiteley who stood tall, collecting the second victory of his escalating Top Alcohol Funny Car career. “It felt great,” said the 25-time NHRA national event winner of his latest triumph on the Mid-West Drag Racing Series tour. “It felt as good as any race I’ve ever won.”

The four-car field just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis at Worldwide Technology Raceway was, in a word, tight. Reigning NHRA Division 3 Top Alcohol Funny Car champion Phil Esz paced the field and Whiteley was dead last, but they were separated by just six-hundredths of a second, from Esz’s No. 1 3.63 at 208.75 mph to Whiteley’s fourth-best 3.69 at 207.88. In between were Jim’s wife Annie and the vaunted family team of veteran Steve Macklyn.

In a first-round battle of converter cars, Whiteley, who also scored at the final race of the 2022 MWDRS tour, the Xtreme Texas World Finals in Ferris, Texas, began his march to the $10,000 top prize with a close holeshot win over Esz. With a .059 reaction time Esz was hardly late, but Whiteley got the drop on him with a .045 and held him off at the eighth-mile stripe to win a close one, 3.64/207 to Esz’s slightly quicker 3.63/207. The margin of victory was just five-thousandths of a second.

Macklyn won the other first-round match, also on a holeshot, in another tight race against Annie. She was slightly quicker with a 3.67 at 209.72 mph – the fastest speed of eliminations – but couldn’t quite get around Macklyn’s quicker-leaving 3.68 at 203 mph. No such scenario played out in the final. Whiteley left on Macklyn by a hair, .056 to .059, and ran quicker and faster, too, with a 3.63 at 207 mph to Macklyn’s 3.67 at 202, making Whiteley a multiple major-event winner in all three alcohol categories – Top Alcohol Dragster, Pro Mod, and now Top Alcohol Funny Car.

PRO MOD – ST. LOUIS 1 2023

Steven Whiteley doesn’t particularly care who drives his car – talented driver/tuner Brandon Snider or him. To him, it still it isn’t that strange to stand on the starting line and watch his car charge down the track with someone else at the wheel.

“It really isn’t,” Whiteley insisted. “I get asked that a lot, but, first of all, it’s not my car – it’s my dad’s. I know Brandon’s driving style, and he’s good. Really good. He’s a lot better than I ever was. I’ll stage and wonder, ‘Did I do this right? Did I do that right? Is this the right rpm?’ He never thinks anything like that.”

At the rain-delayed Night of Fire & Thunder, contested in conjunction with the originally scheduled Heads-Up Hootenanny, Snider pulled off something even more important than winning: he took out rival Keith Haney, the biggest obstacle between Whiteley and his first Mid-West Drag Racing Series championship.

Snider proved his worth from the start, six weeks ago on the original date, when he tuned and drove the car to the No. 1 spot by more than a tenth and a half with a 3.69 at 205 mph, securing a first-round bye in the 13-car field. On that single, he came within thousandths of a second of low E.T. of the round with a 3.72/203, second only to hard-charging Mark Micke’s 3.71 at 215 mph, which was top speed of the meet by nearly 10 mph.

It set up a massive quarterfinal clash with Haney, which Snider won with a better light (.063 to .075) and a quicker (3.64 to 3.70) and faster (208 mph to 201 mph) pass. “The way he tunes the car shows how much more analytical he is than I am,” Whiteley modestly said. “I’m just a driver. I let go of the trans-brake button and send it, then tell Brandon what I felt when I get out of the car. He knows what’s going on the whole time – in or out of the seat.”

Snider then mowed down Jerry Hunter in the semi’s, 3.69/207 to Hunter’s slowing 3.85/187, but Micke grabbed the upper hand for the final on a 3.65/217 single. Picking up significantly to a 3.66/207, Snider gave the J&A Service/YNot Racing team a real chance in the final, but Micke ran him down before the eighth-mile with a superior 3.64/217.

“Brandon was winning,” Whiteley said, “but against that turbo car there’s not much you can do after half-track. He outran us, but that wasn’t the big thing for us this weekend. Beating Haney was the big thing, and Brandon beat him.”

TAFC – TULSA 2023

Throughout Annie Whiteley’s career and especially lately, two things have always been true: she’s at her best in her old hometown, Tulsa, and she dominates rescheduled events. So when the Mid-West Drag Racing Series’ 2023 opener at Xtreme Raceway Park in Ferris, Texas, was postponed and rescheduled for Tulsa Raceway Park, victory was virtually assured.

With metronomic consistency and an overpowering performance, Whiteley prevailed once again, wheeling her Mike Strasburg-tuned J&A Service/YNot Racing “Shattered Glass” Camaro to a lopsided victory over MWDRS newcomer Mike Doushgounian in the final for her third career series win and an early lead in the 2023 Mid-West Top Alcohol Funny Car championship.

From the No. 2 qualifying position, Whiteley faced veteran Steve Macklyn in the first of two rounds of eliminations, advancing easily with a strong 3.72 at 208.88 when he faded with a shutoff 4.59 at just 146. Doushgounian won the other first-round matchup with a slightly quicker 3.70/209, defeating Jonathan Johnson, who was didn’t make it to the line in his first appearance back after a nasty top-end crash a couple years ago at Xtreme Raceway Park.

What shaped up to be a classic final did not disappoint. The blue Camaros of Whiteley and Doushgounian rocketed off the starting line almost simultaneously and were locked together side by side for the entire eighth-mile, with Whiteley emerging victorious by the almost invisible margin of 17-thousandths of a second. Even a .023 reaction time wouldn’t have been enough for her to win.

With a low-.020 or anything slower, she would have lost on a holeshot because Doushgounian was more than on time with a killer .013 reaction time, but Whiteley had this one all the way with a telepathic .005 reaction time, the best of her career. In one of the best races of this or any other season, she won, 3.70/209 to Doushgounian’s right-there 3.71/203, and the handwriting already is on the wall for later this season: The Throwdown in T-Town, set for the day after this race, was rained out and rescheduled for – you guessed it – Tulsa.

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