Tag: Norwalk (Page 1 of 2)

TAFC – NORWALK

It doesn’t usually take Annie Whiteley too many races to bag that first NHRA win of the season. For five years now, it’s taken exactly one: Belle Rose.

But now we’re halfway through the year, and Whiteley’s vaunted J&A Service/YNot team has been largely absent from the NHRA scene, relegated to appearances on the Mid-West Drag Racing Series tour, where, over the past few years, she’s really made a name for herself. “It’s not like I didn’t want to be out here,” Whiteley said of her second NHRA start of 2022. “It’s been my back. People would call, asking if we’d be at Belle Rose because we always start out [winning] at that race, but this year, I couldn’t because my back wouldn’t let me. Now it is.”

Other than a single NHRA outing at the Dallas Regional, where she got just one qualifying attempt and went out first round, Whiteley hadn’t driven 1320 feet since late last season in Las Vegas. “It’s nice to be back on the quarter-mile,” she said at Norwalk, one of her favorite tracks on either tour. “I love the Mid-West deal, but I prefer the quarter-mile. And I like this track. Always have.”

Whiteley made quality runs on two of three qualifying attempts – all but the first, when it seemed no one could get down the barren right lane. She pounded out back-to-back 5.50s in the remaining sessions to secure a spot in the fast half of the field and another in the first round to send driver Tyler Scott and team owner Larry Dobbs back to the Great White North. Both were right on time with .051 reaction times, but Whiteley pulled further and further ahead of the Canadian driver with every shift of her B&J trans for a 5.57/266 to 5.75/249 win.

That same run with the same reaction time in the quarterfinals would have been enough to turn back DJ Cox, but by then conditions had changed. Both cars slowed – just about everybody in that round did – but Whiteley lost three-hundredths of a second and Cox just two in a tight 5.58/261 to 5.60/266 match. “It was almost like the car was shaking the tires,” she said, “but it really wasn’t. I don’t know you’d call it – ‘rough?’ It wasn’t full-on tire-shake, but it was something – something just enough to make me lose.”

PSM – NORWALK

For teammates Cory Reed and Joey Gladstone, still slowly, methodically, but steadily clawing their way to the top of the Pro Stock Motorcycle ranks, the work continues. With a career-best 9-6 (.600) win-loss record this year and now two final-round appearances (doubling his lifetime total coming into the season), Gladstone is perched on the brink of championship contention.

At the Summit Nationals in tiny Norwalk, Ohio, in probably the best outing of the best season of his life, Gladstone landed in his fourth career NHRA final, dropping a rain-delayed decision that looked, for a while at least, as if it all might just go his way. Gladstone picked his way through eliminations to reach a final delayed by rain showers that began not between rounds but as he was on the line, inching toward the beams in the semifinals

“I couldn’t believe they ran us,” said Gladstone, who drove the Diamond W Suzuki to an easy win over returning veteran Hector Arana Jr., 6.93/193 to a red-lighting 10.63/79, to advance to his second final of the season. “I was wiping the raindrops off my visor as I was pulling up there.” The two-hour delay gave his opponent, former world champion Angelle Sampey, who had just red-lighted away a sure win in the Bristol final last week, plenty of time to think. “I think Joey might have relaxed a little that time, figured she’d either be red or way green, but she wasn’t,” Reed said.

“She left on time and made a great run,” said Gladstone, who dropped a good race, 6.86/197 to 6.92/194.

After qualifying 5th with a 6.82/198, Gladstone chased down second-generation rider Jimmy Underdahl, who got out on him with a near-perfect .003 reaction time, 6.89/195 to 6.98/196. “He’s a great rider,” Gladstone said Saturday afternoon in anticipation of their first-round race Sunday. “Not good. Great. He’s been double-0 on the Tree all weekend, and he did it again on me. I got lucky that time and I know it.”

In the following round, it was Gladstone’s turn to strap a big holeshot on someone, and his 6.90/195 took down the much quicker 6.85/195 of early season points leader Karen Stoffer, thanks to a decided advantage on the Tree, .018 to .135. Then came the semifinals, the rain, and another final-round disappointment.

“I almost started hoping it would rain out, so we’ve have time to find more E.T., but I’m not discouraged,” Gladstone concluded, packing up with three weeks before the next race, Denver. “I’m pleased, actually. We moved up in points [to fourth]. I’ve never been this high in the standings this late in the season. I’m more motivated than ever now.”

TAFC – NORWALK 2021

You can’t cut a light when the clutch pedal doesn’t feel right and you definitely can’t win when your blower belt decides it’s had enough halfway through high gear. Thwarted by both, Annie Whiteley pulled out of the Summit Nationals with a disappointing quarterfinal finish despite never making a bad run all weekend.

The J&A Service/YNot Racing driver sped to a 5.60 at 267 mph Friday afternoon in the first of what turned out to be just two Top Alcohol Funny Car qualifying sessions, and followed with a 5.57 at 266, settling into the No. 5 position on the 15-car grid. In the first round, home-state veteran Tony Bogolo offered little resistance, running a polite 5.73/251 that she easily overpowered with a 5.57/267. Whiteley advanced, and on the surface all was good, but .115 reaction times weren’t going to carry her to victory.

“The car kept lurching when I’d go to roll in,” she said. “You’re bearing down as hard as you can on the clutch and the brake, and every time you’d rev it up, it was like, ‘Whoa,’ and you’d have to shove down harder on the clutch and pull harder on the brake, and how can you cut a light like that?”

Sunday afternoon in the rain-delayed quarterfinals, Whiteley was well on her way to another 5.50-something against eventual winner DJ Cox’s, 5.57/264 until the blower belt broke, slowing her to a 5.73 at just 213 mph and costing her any chance at winning. “I don’t want to jinx us, but that’s the first blower belt we’ve broke in probably six years,” she said.

But the problem right now isn’t blower belts – it’s the uneasy relationship between the clutch pedal and Whiteley’s left foot. “I need enough air gap so the car doesn’t go anywhere when I try to roll in,” she said. “Jim told me, ‘Annie, you should be able to roll that car into the beams with two fingers on the brake handle.’ It’s just so frustrating sometimes. Doug Gordon’s team was nice enough to give us a base setup with everything you need to get started with a Molinari clutch, and I really hope that works because we’ve got to get this figured out.”

PRO MOD – NORWALK 2021

In the first round of the Summit Nationals, in one of the biggest rounds of his career, two-time NHRA Pro Mod winner Jim Whiteley outdrove the toughest possible opponent:  his own crew chief, reigning NHRA world champion Stevie Jackson. Whiteley qualified just 12th and “Stevie Fast” was seven spots ahead in the No. 5 position, but Whiteley had this one all the way – just as Jackson feared he would.

“Stevie said before we went up there, ‘I tuned this thing to run as good as my car,’ ” Whiteley said. “He told [his crew chief] Billy [Stocklin], ‘This thing better run good, because my driver [Whiteley] is better than your driver [himself]. I hollered at Stevie’s crew in the lanes, ‘Look that thing over really good because this is the last time you’re gonna be up here this weekend.’ “

It was. Jackson and Whiteley staged almost simultaneously, Jackson was on time with a .043 reaction time, but Whiteley, one of the few Pro Mod drivers who doesn’t have a losing record against “Stevie Fast,” left him sitting there with a .029. “We left, and I didn’t see him,” said Whiteley, who won Pro Mod at Houston in 2016 and 2018. “Second gear, third gear … I still didn’t see him, and I started to think, ‘We might just have a shot at this deal…’ ” He got him on a holeshot, 5.85-5.84, and as they flashed across the finish line at nearly 250 mph, the cars were separated by a mere two-thousandths of a second.

In the quarterfinals, mechanical difficulties dragged Whiteley’s J&A Service/YNot Racing ’69 Camaro quarter-mile car through the beams opposite veteran Doug Winters, bringing to an end a solid showing highlighted by full pulls in all three qualifying sessions (5.93-5.87-5.87) and perhaps his biggest round-win since the Houston final in April 2018.

“We aren’t running all the NHRA races this year,” said Whiteley, who was making just his second appearance on the NHRA tour this season. “We’re not in the hunt – we’re just here to play. But from now on, this car is going to be as quick as Stevie’s and Brandon [Snider]’s cars. It better be.”

PSM – NORWALK 2021

As the 2021 Camping World Drag Racing Series approaches its midpoint, former NHRA Rookie of the Year Cory Reed isn’t quite up to speed. “My motorcycle’s a little behind right now,” he admitted after a tough first-round loss to longtime nemesis Andrew Hines. “[Teammate] Joey [Gladstone]’s bike has all the kinks worked out. It’s settled, smooth. Mine’s still fighting itself.”

Reed, who reached his second career final earlier this season Las Vegas, never really got going at the Summit Nationals in rural Norwalk, Ohio. After sitting through the rain all day Friday for one shot at the waterlogged Norwalk strip, he trudged to a middling 7.05 at 194 mph that positioned him ninth at the time but just 14th by the end of the session.

Saturday, Reed picked up with a 7.07/193 and a subsequent 6.96/195 in last-shot qualifying that got him off the bump and into the field for good. “We kept having wheelie bar issues,” said the young rider, who entered eliminations 13th in the final lineup. “I mean, we tried everything. Changing the tire seemed to work, and the bike improved almost every time it went down the racetrack after that. Basically, we learned here what to do with the wheelie bar on a hot track: raise it up. It really helps.”

Facing Hines, who’s ruined a lot of opponents’ afternoons on the way to a half-dozen NHRA championships, Reed came out on the wrong end of a 6.85/199 to 6.93/193 first-round decision, but, heading into the toughest part of the season, he remains undeterred. “We’re gonna test at Denver before the Mile-High Nationals,” he said. “It’s so slow up there. You have to raise the launch RPM like 1,500 and change just about everything for that one race, but when we get there we’ll be ready.”

PSM – NORWALK 2019

Venturing into the shark-infested waters of in-house engine building for the first time, Cory Reed and Team Liberty pulled off a debut that could only be termed a success at the Summit Racing Equipment Nationals at “America’s Race Track,” Summit Raceway Park in Norwalk, Ohio. Reed and teammate Joey Gladstone, who made the painful decision to skip Chicago to focus entirely on to the unimaginable leap to being their own engine builders, exceeded their stated goal of coming back at Denver by making it to Norwalk.

“I definitely didn’t expect to be here,” Reed said. “This is all of us together – [crew chief/tuner] Cecil [Towner], Joey, me, everybody under this awning. We all contribute. We never thought we’d make it back before Denver, but everything looked good when we dynoed our stuff, so we thought, ‘What the hell? Let’s go to Norwalk.’ We used to make peak power at 7,000 [rpm]. We leave at almost 7,000. Now, we’re making peak power at about 10,000, and these things spend a lot more time up around 10,000 than they do at 7,000, so we figured we’d run better than we were and we are.”

Opposite Angie Smith, wife of reigning NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion Matt Smith, for the first time in his career, Reed was off like a shot with a .028 reaction time in the first round and a 1.06-second 60-foot time, his best all weekend. “That told me the clutch tune-up was back where it should be,” he said. “At the 330-foot mark, I could tell I was in front of her. At 660 feet [half-track], she was driving up on me. She was definitely moving on me at 1,000 feet and probably had a good bike on me at the finish line. I thought I could win with a .020-something light and I had one, but I guess we still need to run better. I don’t even care. We’re leaving here with the motors we came with. We didn’t tear anything up all weekend, and that was our whole goal: stop hurting parts.”

PRO MOD – NORWALK 2019

Forced back into his old Cadillac CTS-V after championship contender Todd Tutterow smashed into his Camaro right after the finish line at Topeka, shoving him into the wall and destroying that side of the car too, Steven Whiteley returned to the NHRA Pro Mod tour at the Summit Racing Equipment Nationals in Norwalk. “We’ll just see,” he said before qualifying got under way. “We don’t really have any information for running a torque converter/automatic transmission setup in this old thing. When we ran the Cadillac, it always had a clutch.”

First time out with the unfamiliar combination couldn’t have gone much worse. Whiteley, ranked as high as fifth in the NHRA Pro Mod standings this season and long accustomed to qualifying high and going rounds, didn’t make it into 2nd gear all weekend. Most of the time, he didn’t make it to the Tree. The teams’ first crack at the shotgun wedding marriage of an automatic transmission and the old Cadillac yielded an uninspiring 17-second shutoff Friday afternoon, and this was no time to start from scratch with a converter setup; after just one qualifying session, the bump was already down to 5.88.

Instant shake deep-sixed the Friday night session, too, though Whiteley came within a thousand of a second of a perfect .000 reaction time. Early Saturday afternoon in Q3, it was the same story: off the throttle by the 60-foot mark. The only Cadillac to ever win an NHRA national event left hard in last-shot qualifying, charging hard with the wheels up, but it was all over before the 1-2 shift, and Whiteley coasted silently across the finish line 18 seconds later at 47 mph.

By the time the J&A Service NHRA Pro Mod season resumes over Labor Day weekend at the biggest event in drag racing, the U.S. Nationals, everything will be different. Whiteley will be back in his trusty Camaro, and by then countless test runs with the completely rebuilt machine will be in the logbook. More important, team leader Jim Whiteley will be there with his all-new split-window ’63 Corvette and Pro Mod points leader “Stevie Fast” Jackson calling the shots.

TAFC – NORWALK 2018

After winning two of her three previous starts and three races overall this season, Annie Whiteley was upset in the first round of the NHRA Nationals in tiny Norwalk, Ohio. As in her only other first-round loss all year, at Topeka, rain played havoc with the schedule, in this case reducing qualifying to a single session. She and other Top Alcohol Funny Car drivers couldn’t have known it at the time, but their opening qualifying runs Friday afternoon would be the only ones they’d get. She charged off the line and sped to a 5.57 at just short of 270 mph for the No. 2 spot on the grid, her third No. 2 in the past four races after opening the season with five No. 1s in a row.

That set up a first-round match with the No. 15 qualifier – only this time, No. 15 wasn’t the normal second-slowest car in the field; it was Chip Beverett and his 5.40-capable Camaro. Beverett may have run just a 5.84 on his lone qualifying attempt, but he picked up three-tenths of a second to a 5.54 in the first round that edged the YNot driver’s 5.52 at 270.64 mph (top speed of the meet).

“The car started creeping on me at the starting line,” said Whiteley, who’s off until the Northwest Nationals in Seattle (Aug. 3-5). “When I brought the motor up, it kind of staged itself. That just kills your concentration – you’re going back down on the pedal, and, naturally, that’s right when the Tree comes on so you’re late.”

PRO MOD – NORWALK 2018

Steven Whiteley persevered through rain-shortened preliminaries to once again qualify high in the Pro Mod field, as he has every race since he debuted his 5.7-second Camaro, only to bow out early in eliminations. The second-generation racer, who has yet to miss the top half of the field since debuting a new Jerry Haas-built piece last month in Kansas, took the provisional pole with an off-the trailer 5.79 at 251 mph and eventually landed in the No. 6 spot with that time.

Rain stopped the action six different times Saturday and trimmed qualifying from the usual four sessions to just two. In the first round of eliminations early Sunday morning, in just his second run all weekend in the left lane, Whiteley faced nemesis Todd Tutterow, who had upset him from the No. 16 a week earlier in Bristol. Tutterow, as experienced as anyone in the J&A Service Pro Mod Series and a known leaver, cut a near-perfect .005 reaction time, but by then the outcome of this one had already been decided.

“That third pedal makes driving these cars a little harder, doesn’t it?” asked Whiteley, who disqualified himself with a rare foul start. “I knew Todd was good on the Tree, so I was hanging on the pedal with just my big toe like I’ve done a million times before. It came off the clutch and I tried to save it, but I rolled the beams.” Tutterow rattled the tires in low gear, lifted, got back on the gas, and sped to a winning 6.51 at 240 mph while an aggravated Whiteley coasted across the stripe at 68 mph nine seconds later with a shut-off 14.28.

“I double-clutched, and when I got back on the throttle it picked the front end up,” said Whiteley, who’ll have two months to think about it before the tour resumes Labor Day weekend at the biggest race of all, the U.S. Nationals. “I heard him pedal it and thought, ‘Here’s my opportunity.’ Then it was like, ‘Oh, wait, there is no opportunity – I already red-lighted.’ It leaves a pretty sour taste in your mouth, trust me. I don’t think I’ve ever been this mad at myself.”

PSM – NORWALK 2018

Cory Reed pulled out of Norwalk, Ohio in a better place than when he arrived, a first-round casualty but one wiser and better positioned for the future than when he left Richmond and especially Chicago. The former NHRA Rookie of the Year entered in eliminations for this race 11th on the grid, a spot that typically holds the promise of a fair chance at beating the fast-half qualifier, who’s only five spots ahead in sixth place.

But in this instance, the No. 6 qualifier was reigning and many-time world champ Eddie Krawiec, who went on to win the whole race. “We learned a lot this weekend,” said Reed, who had gone rounds at consecutive races to open the season but hasn’t since. “We burned up the clutch trying to pull a gear we thought we could run. I didn’t really think it was going to work, and it didn’t. With that longer gear, the bike is dragging when you shift gears – not ‘snapping.’ It’s just not going anywhere, and you can feel it – it’s obvious.

Reed was consistent in qualifying, and at it’s a good thing he was – inclement weather limited the two-wheel contingent to just two qualifying attempts instead of the usual four. Team Liberty reeled off similar runs of 6.95/193 and 6.97/193 – one on Friday and one on Saturday. In completely different circumstances in the first round of eliminations Sunday, Reed remained in that range with a competitive 6.95/192, but the Harley rider pulled away with a 6.90/193 and went on to the event title.

“We’ll test before the next race [Denver], and we’ll be ready when we get there,” Reed said. “We’re making changes around here, and I know they’re going to help. We’re starting to see the big picture. With these things, you need to get the momentum going early in the run – if you don’t, you’re done.”

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