Tag: pro mod (Page 1 of 8)

PRO MOD – MARTIN

Back behind the wheel of one of the fastest Pro Mods on the eighth-mile instead of tuning it for Steven Whiteley as he has all year, talented driver/tuner Brandon Snider qualified near the top of the grid and drove to a semifinal finish at the U.S. 131 Nationals. At Martin, one of the crown jewels on the Mid-West Drag Racing Series’ eight-race tour, Snider showed the form that made him one of the more feared drivers on the NHRA tour, where he won multiple events and came within a round of the 2020 championship.

As the MWDRS season resumed following a three-month break since the Summer Speed Spectacular at World Wide Technology Raceway just outside St. Louis, Snider wheeled the J&A Service/YNot Racing team’s immaculate ’69 Camaro to an outstanding 3.65 at 205 mph for the No. 4 spot in the all-3-second 16-car lineup. Series newcomer and eventual winner Preston Tanner paced the field with a run just a couple hundredths of a second quicker than Snider’s 3.65, a 3.62/204.

In the first round, in all-Camaro showdown with Mike Recchia, Snider was out first with a .024 reaction time and came out on top in a great race, 3.68/206 to 3.73/203. When the sun set for the quarterfinals, he picked up to a 3.66/205 to erase the close 3.72/201 of second-generation racer Jackie Sloan Jr. and set up a semifinal showdown with Tanner.

Tanner, who would go on to score in his MWDRS debut, got off the mark first with a telepathic reaction time and held off Snider’s quicker 3.61/208 for a 3.64/203 holeshot win. Dustin Nesloney topped Ed Thornton in the other semifinal and narrowly red-lighted in the final to hand the event title to a grateful Tanner, who couldn’t help but notice the red-light glowing in the dark and clicked it early to avoid a disastrous centerline infraction when his car darted for the other lane.

PRO MOD – ST. LOUIS

It’s been three years since Steven Whiteley last raced at World Wide Technology Raceway just outside St. Louis. Back then, he was still hitting 250 mph on the quarter-mile and his opponent at that race, the 2019 NHRA Midwest Nationals, was, of all people, his crew chief today, Brandon Snider. (Snider won, but Whiteley had him on the Tree.)

Now, the two work together, Snider making all the calls and Whiteley behind the wheel, and they can almost always be found in the upper reaches of the qualifying order. At the Mid-West Drag Racing Series’ Summer Speed Spectacular, the two again had the J&A Service/YNot Racing team’s spotless ’69 Camaro in the fast half of the field, but not as close to the top as usual – just seventh, with 3.770 at 201.16.

“We struggled all weekend,” Whiteley admitted. “The whole team did, really – all three of us. The track stumped us. The heat was part of it, sure, but all the other teams had to deal with it, too.” Nobody made it into the 3.60s, the whole top half of the field was in the .70s, and the first driver in the .80s, No. 10 qualifier Brian Lewis, was Whiteley’s first-round foe.

Long established as one of Pro Mod’s top leavers, regardless of the association, Whiteley had the best reaction time of all 16 drivers in the opening round, an outstanding .018. Lewis was right behind him with a .028 and matched his 3.813 qualifying time almost to the thousandth of a second for a winning 3.815 at 197.57 mph. Whiteley could’ve slowed down half a tenth and still won on a holeshot, but he fell way off, coasting across the eighth-mile mark with a just a 4.83 at about 100 mph for a dispiriting loss.

“It just took the tire off,” Whiteley said. “I don’t know what happened. This track whipped our asses all weekend. It was so hot, we’re just glad to get out of here. It’ll be nice to have some time off from racing to work and spend time with the family.”

One of the truly unique aspects of competing on the racer-friendly MWDRS tour is the lengthy three-month summer break it affords teams, most of which are led by independent entrepreneurs who spend that time between races literally taking care of business. After this welcome respite, the season finishes with a flourish, a three-race stretch from Sept. 9 to Oct. 22 with stops in Martin, Mich., Tulsa, and Ferris, Texas.

PRO MOD – TULSA

Everything was falling into place for second-generation Pro Mod driver Steven Whiteley at the Throwdown in T-Town – all the potential displayed in the first two races was on full display.

“The car was really running here,” he said. “Both lanes. That’s the thing about Tulsa. There’s that famous bump in left lane, but it doesn’t matter now because it’s after eighth mile. I’ve never seen a track where both lanes were truly as equal as they were this weekend. You don’t need a plan for the bad lane because now there is no bad lane.”

Thrown on top of the postponed Memphis Nationals – a whole other MWDRS national event in itself – the regularly scheduled Tulsa event was enough to put anyone on overload. Driving a powerful Pro Mod, plotting strategy round after round of Memphis Top Dragster eliminations with wife Delaina, and keeping an eye on their son’s Jr. Dragster was enough to frazzle anyone, but Whiteley gamely kept it all straight.

“One race was over and you’d turn around and be right into the next one,” he said. “It kind of got to be a blur; the rounds all started running together. All I remember was that the last round I won was on Friday night.” The first round for the originally scheduled Throwdown in T-Town was on Saturday, and Whiteley lost traction and had to lift against the ’68 Camaro of Brian Lewis, who’d barely qualified, 16th with a 3.81.

In the other lane, Lewis skied to a 4.07 but still squeaked into the quarterfinals against eventual runner-up Daniel Pharris. To compound Whiteley’s frustration, Lewis never made it to the line to make a race of it and Pharris advanced on a 3.72 single. Whiteley, who probably should have qualified No. 1 for the Memphis race, did qualify No. 1 for this one with an outstanding 3.638/207.08, pacing an enormous field of 25 cars from all over the middle of the country.

“I think I’ve only aborted three runs all year – one went toward the wall, it took the tire off on a qualifier in Memphis, and now here in the first round,” Whiteley said. “The car made it out there quite a way, started chattering, and then took the tire off, but for the most part it goes right down there every time. And it’s fast. [Crew chief] Brandon Snider is top notch. It’s nice to have a crew chief who understands exactly what it’s like from a driver’s point of view because he’s a really good driver himself.”

PRO MOD – FERRIS

With a .008 reaction time on his first hit in years, Steven Whiteley made a triumphant return to Pro Mod at the Mid-West Drag Series’ Xtreme Raceway Park season opener. “It felt like I was in the car last week,” he said. “Not this car. This thing is an animal – it carries the front end 400 feet every time. This is gonnatake a little getting used to.”

The former NHRA national event champion, who will compete exclusively on the MWDRS tour from now on, qualified high and went rounds in his first outing since the final race of the 2019 NHRA campaign, the Dodge Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where he locked down a Top 10 finish in the NHRA standings. “There was no ‘a-ha’ moment where I knew I was coming back,” Whiteley said. “I just knew I was never going back to NHRA. This Mid-West deal just fits. I can race with my whole family, and I love running the eighth-mile. Always have. I’ve done PDRA stuff, the Snowbirds, the Street Car Super Nationals, and the Bradenton season opener, and I’ve always loved this style of racing.”

After a few laps to “knock the cobwebs off,” as he termed it, Whiteley wheeled father Jim Whiteley’s Brandon Snider-tuned ’69 Camaro to three remarkably consistent qualifying times: 3.62, 3.61, and 3.61, all at from 207 to 209 mph. He qualified fifth for a record field that attracted 29 entries and dispatched Jerry Hunt’s fine 3.69/203 in the first round with a superior 3.66/206, then had to step off the throttle in the quarterfinals, nullifying what would have been a sure win over Taylor Lastor.

“The car was moving to the right,” Whiteley said. “It’s going, going, going, and the front end’s in the air, so there’s nothing you can do about it. There comes a point when you have to lift. It’s not my car – it’s my dad’s. That’s always in the back of your mind.” With two choices – lift and lose or plow into the wall, be disqualified, and lose – Whiteley took his foot out of the throttle, coasting to a 5.05 at 95 mph, while Lastor gratefully scooped up the round-win with just a 3.90, then broke on the burnout next round.

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 – 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.

PRO MOD – INDY 2021

At the 67th annual NHRA U.S. Nationals, the seventh and by far the most prestigious event on the 11-race 2021 NHRA Pro Mod tour, versatile Jim Whiteley powered into the quarterfinals for the third race in a row. He made it into the field on just a single qualifying attempt – everybody did.

For the first time in the history of the sport’s biggest race, qualifying consisted of exactly one session – not just for Pro Mod, but also for Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock, and Pro Stock Motorcycle. Whiteley made the most of the rain-shortened format and did it under particularly difficult circumstances: not a single car ahead of him had made it downtrack under power, and one of them, supercharged door-car veteran Rick Hord, crashed hard into both walls right in front of him.

Putting it out of his mind, Whiteley cruised to a smooth 5.90 at 243 mph that propelled him straight to the top of the provisional grid and eventually settled him into the sixth spot on the ladder. That pitted him against perennial contender Khalid alBalooshi, the third third-ranked driver of 2020, whom he absolutely drilled on a first-round holeshot in Denver and who qualified 11th here with a 6.25/236 mph.

Whiteley, focused this year on the burgeoning Mid-West Drag Racing Series, where he’s led the Pro Mod standings for much of the season, was making just his fourth NHRA start of 2021, having skipped Atlanta, Charlotte, and Brainerd. Again, he overwhelmed Balooshi in a lopsided wire-to-wire first-round win. Balooshi was more or less on time with a respectable .068 light, but Whiteley had a decided edge with a .038 and moved on with his best run all weekend, 5.89/240, trailing smoke across the finish line.

Docked 5 points for an oildown infraction even though what little oil spilled was confined to the return road, Whiteley faced teammate and reigning series champ Steve Jackson, who seems to race him every other weekend, in the quarterfinals. There, a promising outing ended with a whimper when Whiteley’s beautiful Yenko/SC Camaro sat motionless as the Tree came down.

Handcuffed by mechanical problems before he ever staged, Whiteley rolled into the beams in the unlikely event that experienced “Stevie Fast,” the defending U.S. Nationals champ, red-lighted or crossed the centerline. He didn’t, of course, advancing uncontested with a 5.81 at 246 mph. “I knew we were done before we rolled up there,” Whiteley said. “The whole solenoid popped off, and there was no way I was going to try to make a run like that. It sucked – especially after everybody had worked their asses off all weekend.”

PRO MOD – GRAND BEND 2021

Stopped short of the breakthrough first Mid-West Drag Racing Series victory that remains just outside his grasp, incoming MWDRS points leader Jim Whiteley still fared well at the Great Bend National, well enough to maintain his nearly yearlong points lead. He led all qualifiers, advanced to the semifinals, and left the Kansas plains in first place – right where he was when he pulled through the SRCA Drag Strip gates.

Whiteley, who made it to the final at Ferris and the semi’s at Tulsa, towered over all Pro Mod qualifiers with a 3.71 on the eighth-mile course, just ahead of No. 2 qualifier Jon Stouffer, who survived a violent crash into both walls in eliminations, and No. 3 Joey Oksas, who would go on to collect his first major event title. Whiteley pounded James Roberts in the first round of eliminations and 2019 series champ Aaron Wells in the quarterfinals before falling in the semi’s to series MWDRS founder Keith Haney.

In the opening round, Whiteley drilled Roberts on the Tree, .051 to .138, and charged to a winning 3.76 at more than 200 mph to easily advance. In the quarters, Wells provided much more resistance with a competitive 3.80 at 199 mph, but the J&A/YNot Racing driver had him all the way with a decidedly better reaction time and nearly duplicated his qualifying time with a 3.72/201.

Whiteley’s best shot at his first MWDRS crown evaporated in the semifinals when he came out on the wrong end of a holeshot decision opposite the nitrous-powered “Black Mamba” Camaro of Mr. “You Know Who I Am” himself, Haney, 3.72/202 to 3.71/201. “I went in early – earlier than I probably should have – and it messed me up,” Whiteley said. “I knew it was over when I left.”

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