Back in the car for the first time since March, Pro Mod veteran Steven Whiteley picked up right where he left off in Bradenton – in the final.
Runner-up earlier this season in the Chicago-Style Second Chance Shootout at the Drag Illustrated World Series of Pro Mod, Whiteley found himself at the precipice of victory once again here at the Mid-West Drag Racing Series’ Thunder in the Valley only to fall just short. He qualified No. 1 at the Noble, Okla., facility and powered through the preliminary rounds before fading in the final against Tulsa track owner Keith “You Know My Name” Haney.
From the pole position, Whiteley trounced No. 12 qualifier Joshua Vettel in the opening round with a remarkably consistent 3.68 at 204.40 mph, easily covering Vettel’s coasting 5.72 at 81 mph. Brian Lewis was the next to go, narrowly red-lighting with a -.002 reaction time and slowing to a 4.27/125 while Whiteley moved on with a consistent 3.68/204. Qualifying No. 1 in a 12-car field afforded the YNot Racing/J&A Service team a semifinal bye and with it a chance to test for the final, but Whiteley was off the throttle well before the finish line on a slowing 4.30/124.
In the other semi, Haney, who’d matched Whiteley’s pole-qualifying 3.664 right down to the thousandth of second in a quarterfinal victory over perennial top-speed setter Ed Thornton, took down Albuquerque’s Mike Labbate in a great race, barely overcoming Labbate’s holeshot head start. After missing the Tree with a drowsy .104 reaction time, Haney held off Labbate’s 214-mph top end charge to advance by the invisible margin of one-thousandth of a second.
In the final, in a battle of the top two drivers in the 2023 MWDRS standings with a $2500 side bet on the line, Whiteley left noticeably ahead of Haney with a .039 light and was headed to victory only to slow on the top end. Haney claimed low E.T. of the meet with a 3.662 at 203.23 mph while Whiteley’s immaculate ’69 Camaro fell off to a 3.79 at 163 mph.