Tag: St.Louis

PRO MOD – ST. LOUIS/HOUSTON 2020

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.

TAFC – ST. LOUIS 2020

TAFC – ST. LOUIS

Admittedly unnerved at having a Funny Car body lowered over him for the first time in his already legendary driving career and well aware that he’d have to crank the wheel harder than ever before to maintain control, door-car superstar Stevie “Fast” Jackson just missed winning in his Alcohol Funny Car debut. At the Summer Speed Spectacular in St. Louis, Jackson narrowly red-lighted in the rain-delayed final against another reigning NHRA world champion, 2018-19 Top Alcohol Funny Car champ Sean Bellemeur.

At the wheel of series sponsor Jim & Annie Whiteley’s Yenko-blue YNot/J&A Service Camaro, “Stevie Fast” refined the team’s torque-converter combination while simultaneously familiarizing himself with the unfamiliar confines and sometimes confounding characteristics of a dragster-style center-steer chassis. All he did was set top speed of the entire event (214.11 mph) and nearly win the first time he ever raced a Funny Car. Jackson put away 2017 champion Shane Westerfield in the first round with a 3.68 and vastly improved second-generation driver Kyle Smith in the semifinals with a lethal 3.62 before red-lighting by a fraction of a second in the final.

As expected, it took Jackson, who said he’d win the NHRA Pro Mod world championship last year and actually did, little time to adapt to a Funny Car. The versatile, talented old-school pro’s 3.64 in the final was just a tick slower than Bellemeur’s 3.63, and he’d have been a hero holeshot winner had his finger come off the button just .002-second later. “They’re hard to drive,” he said of his first Funny Car race. “They’re nothing like a Pro Mod. You have to line up in a different spot – it’s kinda weird being right in the middle of the lane like that – and nothing that works for one kind of car means anything with the other. A Funny Car doesn’t pull as hard early in the run as I thought it would, but you really have to get aggressive steering it downtrack. It’s gonna take a little time to be good, but if it’s got wheels on it, I can drive it.”

While Bellemeur, who also scored last month at the Xtreme Texas Nationals, kept his lifetime record in Keith Haney’s Mid-West Drag Racing Series unblemished – two starts, two wins – Jackson padded his extensive, varied résumé with another massive success in a completely different kind of race car. “This was awesome,” concluded “Stevie Fast,” who, unbeknownst to most, has actually held a Top Alcohol Funny Car license for 12 years – he just hadn’t raced one until now. “I just can’t thank Jim and Annie enough for letting me drive her car this weekend.”

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