As the carnage piled up from crashed and blown-up Top Fuel dragsters, Funny Cars, and Pro Stockers at St. Louis, the Pro Mod contingent ultimately decided that it wasn’t safe to complete the NHRA Midwest Nationals – or, really, to even start. Rain-shortened qualifying was finalized Saturday solely on the basis of the Friday night session, and despite cars being called to the lanes for first round twice Sunday, eliminations never happened.
The lone session Friday went off in mineshaft conditions, but after a completely washed out Saturday slate, the air was downright crisp and the track so cold Sunday that most Pro Mod teams deemed it unsafe, especially after Pro Stock veteran Kenny Delco crashed in the first round of Pro Stock and retiring former champ Jeg Coughlin nearly did in the second round before deftly regaining control. Rather than tempt fate, Jim Whiteley’s YNot/J&A Service team came to the same conclusion the other Pro Mod teams ultimately did: punt.
“If it came right down to it, I would’ve run,” Whiteley said. “If it was, ‘Run now, or you’re out of the race,’ I would have run, but I didn’t want to. Nobody did. All we would’ve done is torn up a bunch more cars.” Based off just that one session, top cars were in the 5.60s and Whiteley was right in the middle of it all, ninth with a 5.78, set to race No. 8 qualifier Kris Thorne (5.77) first round Sunday morning.
Then people started running into things, and, after heading to the staging lanes intending to run first round a couple times only to be turned back or pull out of their own accord, the whole event was pushed back Houston, where the Pro Mods always used to run but weren’t scheduled to this year. Every run from St. Louis counted, teams that didn’t make the trip to Texas were wiped off the qualifying sheets as if they’d never been there, and everybody got two shots. Whiteley was in the .70s on all three qualifying runs and ended up in the No. 7 spot for the second race in a row, with a 5.735, almost identical to the 5.737 he ran to qualify seventh last week at Dallas.
Under cloudy skies in the first round, Whiteley, whose two career Pro Mod victories (in 2016 and 2018) both came at Houston, leapt off the line with a killer .018 light and had opponent Jeff Jones covered all the way in a lopsided 5.77/247 to 6.20/228 win. Another nice light and a steady 5.75/247 left him just short of the wheelstanding 5.72/249 by underrated Brandon Snider, who a week earlier had never won an NHRA race but found himself in the points lead, riding a six-round winning streak with one race, Las Vegas, to go.