Tag: ST. LOUIS (Page 1 of 2)

TAFC – ST. LOUIS

Jim Whiteley, who’s won big in Pro Mod and won it all, multiple times, in Top Alcohol Dragster, is fast closing in on a first major title in a third different category, Top Alcohol Funny Car. The two-time national event winner in NHRA Pro Mod and two-time world champion in Top Alcohol Dragster just missed winning the Mid-West Drag Racing Series’ Summer Speed Spectacular, outdriving the hands-down best Funny Car driver out there, Sean Bellemeur, in the final.

Just across the Mississippi River from downtown St. Louis at multipurpose World Wide Technology Raceway, Whiteley narrowly lost to the toughest possible opponent, Bellemeur, the current MWDRS points leader and reigning series champion in both the MWDRS and NHRA series. “He left on me and had me beat,” Bellemeur admitted. “He’s going to be really, really successful in that Funny Car.”

Whiteley wasn’t so sure. “This thing’s a challenge,” he said of his new ride. “Having them lower the body down over you and having the transmission running between your legs doesn’t bother me, but even though I have a clutch pedal and rev it up on the starting line, driving a Funny Car is not the same as driving an Alcohol Dragster or a Pro Mod. At all. None of that experience helps at all.”

With a 3.68 at 210.47 mph, Whiteley wheeled his J&A Service/YNot Racing entry to an easy first-round win over 2021 MWDRS championship runner-up Chris Marshall, who broke, then won a round he didn’t particularly want to win, over his least-favorite opponent ever – his wife, Top Alcohol Funny Car veteran Annie Whiteley. He got out first with a clutch .042 reaction time and hung on to edge her slightly quicker 3.66 with a 3.67.

An almost identical .048 light in the final gave Whiteley a noticeable holeshot lead on Bellemeur, but Bellemeur narrowly ran down his event-best 3.66 at just 207 mph with a much quicker and faster 3.61/213 for a photo-finish win. “It had to be close,” Whiteley said. “I still only have 12 hits in this thing, and I’m still learning every time out, but I can say one thing without a doubt: this Funny Car is harder to drive than anything I’ve ever driven before.”

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 – ST. LOUIS 2019

0-2 in Friday qualifying and 2-for-2 Saturday, former Gatornationals winner Steven Whiteley was on the upswing entering NHRA Midwest Nationals eliminations. Following a shut-off 6.33 at 167 mph on his initial attempt Friday afternoon with his completely rebuilt ’18 Camaro and a shake-plagued 10.21 that evening, Whiteley, the only Pro Mod driver not to put up a clean run Friday, unloaded a 5.84 at 247 mph in Saturday morning in Q3 to shoot from dead last to the fast half of the field.

In the fourth and final qualifying session, opponent Mike Castellana, coming off a victory at the biggest race of the season, the U.S. Nationals, did the same thing: catapulted himself from 19th and last all the way to the top half. Whiteley wasn’t far behind with his quickest run of the weekend, a competitive 5.81/246 that moved from 14th to 13th and pitted him against quick-leaving Brandon Snider in the first round of eliminations.

Snider was on time with a .052 reaction time, but Whiteley, who leaves first 78% of the time, was literally twice as quick with a killer .026. The lead didn’t last long when he shook immediately and Snider got by him not far past the Tree for a 5.77/247 win. The YNot/J&A Service driver could have won on a holeshot with anything better than a 5.797 but had to lift long before reaction times came into play.

“It wasn’t moving fast enough when the power came in – it already had a weak shake to begin with,” Whiteley said. “I don’t like pedalfests. That’s not my thing – that’s when you wreck. Maybe I could’ve stayed in it, maybe not. It made a big move and I didn’t like it, I know that. When that happened, I was like ‘Yeah, I’m done.’ “

PRO MOD – ST. LOUIS 2018

At the second-quickest race in the history of the J&A Service NHRA tour (behind only this race last year), Jim Whiteley charged to the greatest run of his Pro Mod career, a 5.72 at more than 250 mph, to qualify a season-high sixth. It took a 5.77 just to make the cut, and two drivers – Todd Tutterow and, unfortunately, YNot’s Steven Whiteley – ran in the 5.70s and didn’t qualify.

“I absolutely should’ve run between a .71 and a .73 here,” said Steven, understandably disappointed. “I didn’t run good enough in the one [atmospherically] great session, which was a huge kick in the butt. This is probably the biggest disappointment of my whole year. I was a grouch all day Sunday when everybody else was racing and I wasn’t.”

Near-perfect conditions at Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Ill., just across the Mississippi River from downtown St. Louis, had the Pro Mods flying all weekend. After a single qualifying session, the entire field was packed within a tenth of a second and the bump was already down to a 5.82. Steven’s 5.80-flat Saturday morning put him 12th at the time but ultimately did him no good, and his subsequent 5.77 left him two-thousandths of a second too slow, 17th in a 16-car field.

Throw out Mike Castellana’s ridiculous 5.67 national record run, and the entire field was separated by just five-hundredths of a second – 5.72 to 5.77. Jim qualified 6th with a 5.729, but Mike Janis, who also ran a 5.72 (5.725), was all the way up in the No. 2 spot. In eliminations, Jim strapped a holeshot on PDRA star Jason Scruggs in the opening round and pulled away to a 5.80 to 5.82 win, then fell in the quarterfinals to eventual winner Stevie “Fast” Jackson, 5.74 to 5.79, for his best finish since he won Houston.

PSM – ST. LOUIS 2018

Seemingly outgunned against the top-ranked rider in Pro Stock Motorcycle all year, reigning NHRA world champ Eddie Krawiec, Joey Gladstone upset his heavily favored opponent, who handed over a first-round win with the most aggravating red-light of all, a -.001. “I was squatting behind the beams,” said Gladstone’s boss, Team Liberty leader Cory Reed. “They left, and I never even noticed the red-light in Eddie’s lane. I watched them go down the track and thought, ‘Dammit, we lost,’ and then somebody yelled, ‘Wait, he red-lighted!’ ”

Gladstone was outqualified by his much more accomplished foe by a full nine spots – No. 4 to No. 13 – but those numbers are somewhat misleading. Gladstone actually was right there alongside Krawiec in the 6.80s, 6.82 to 6.89, and the same numbers flashed on the scoreboards when they raced – 6.82 for Krawiec and 6.89 for Gladstone – but the win-light shone on Gladstone’s side of the track. “The bike is running better now than it would be if I was on it because of Joey’s weight – 135 pounds,” Reed said. “I weigh 150. In this class, that makes me a fat guy. It’s funny, the different emotions you feel watching someone else riding your bike, but it doesn’t bother me that much. It’s all about taking the next step, ’cause I’m tired of getting my ass kicked.

“Joey keeps making good passes,” Reed said, “and we keep learning more than we ever would if I was on there – the way the clutch works, way the tire hits, the way the wheelie bar works … when Joey’s on there, the weight transfer is what it’s supposed to be. When I’m on there, everything’s all wrong – it works right one time and doesn’t the next, and we never know why. When we get the new bike, it’ll be like 40 pounds lighter and we’ll be able to move weight around and have everything exactly the way we want it.”

PRO MOD – ST. LOUIS 2017

Steven Whiteley may have been gone by the quarterfinals at the Midwest Nationals, but not before he knocked out by far the greatest series of runs in J&A Service/YNot team history – 5.79, 5.75, 5.77, a career-best 5.74, and another 5.77 Sunday in the heat.

Just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis in Madison, Ill., almost in the shadows of the arch, Whiteley, who’d been beaten on a holeshot only one other time in his career, lost to eventual winner and new points leader Troy Coughlin in the second round of eliminations, 5.78 to 5.77. The .77 was low e.t. of the round, and his .74 in a first-round win over Danny Rowe was just a thousandth of a second from low e.t. of all of eliminations.

“That run against Troy would have been a nice time to run the .74, but sometimes you get so focused on staging as shallow as you can that you don’t cut as good a light as you could’ve,” said Whiteley, who fell short by just .026-second. “A .061 light – that’s slow for me. I mean, .029 was the worst I had in all four rounds in Denver. What happened to that guy? I never saw Troy. I didn’t look over – with blinders on your visor you can’t see anything anyway – but I never saw him till he went by me after the laundry was out.”

Whiteley, who skipped the last race, Charlotte, to be home with wife Delaina for the birth of their daughter, Bayslei, picked up right where he left off at Indy, hitting a 5.79 off the trailer for the No. 2 spot at the time and only running better from there. “Hands down, this is the best we’ve ever run,” he said. “You talk about a kick in the ass … I can’t believe I lost on a holeshot. Running the second round on Sunday makes it almost like another first round. There’s that pressure, those first-round jitters … I wish we ran all four rounds on one day – that’s when you can really get in a rhythm.”

The St. Louis race was the quickest race in the history of the J&A Service Pro Mod Series, with a bump of 5.80-flat. Team leader Jim Whiteley came through in the clutch with a 5.803 in last-shot qualifying, and the most recent winner on tour, Jonathan Gray, didn’t even make the cut, missing with a 5.807 that would have qualified for any other race ever.

“A 5.80 bump – that’s ridiculous,” Whiteley said. “We qualified No. 1 here just a couple years ago with a 5.84. Today, a 5.84 gets you nothing. I hate losing – I had the best car on race day and didn’t get it done – but I’m more impressed with the team running a 5.77 Sunday in the heat than I am with running our best ever, 5.74, in better conditions. I just want to get to Vegas for the last race of the season, kick ass, get back in the top five, and finish out the best year we’ve ever had.”

PRO MOD – ST. LOUIS 2016

Back with the other top runners in Sunday eliminations, Jim Whiteley advanced to the quarterfinals at St. Louis in his best outing since he beat soon-to-be 2016 world champ Rickie Smith in the wild Houston final for his first NHRA Pro Mod title.

At the wheel of his powerful J&A Service/YNot Racing ’69 Chevelle, Whiteley forced his way into the tough AAA Nationals field with a 5.94 at 235 mph Friday afternoon and hung in there with a 5.93/243 Saturday morning. That afternoon in the first round of eliminations, qualified just 14th in the field, Whiteley lined up against No. 3 qualifier Sidnei Frigo, the Brazilian whose frightening over-the-wall crash at Houston made it possible for Whiteley to get back into the race as an alternate and eventually win.

Whiteley drilled Frigo with a telepathic .009 reaction time and drove away from Frigo’s state-of-the-art ’16 Corvette to win handily. “With Chuck’s clutch, you almost can’t not cut a good light,” Whiteley said of his new crew chief, master blower builder Chuck Ford, a former door-car driver himself. “We did three or four hits in testing, and the lights kept coming up -.005 red, -.001 red, -.002 red – the same thing every time. The spread was so close that Chuck said, ‘Stay right where you’re at and we’ll adjust it and be good,’ and he was right.”

Whiteley’s winning time against Frigo, who was off the throttle early, was a 5.90-flat, his best run all year outside of Indy. In qualifying, son Steven Whiteley ran even better – a 5.87 at 247 mph for the No. 8 spot – but he fell by the wayside in a first-round loss to Smith, who virtually locked up his third J&A Service NHRA Pro Mod championship with a runner-up to Troy Coughlin.

Jim was out one round later when he blew the tires off against past Top Fuel and Pro Mod winner Khalid alBalooshi – but not before getting the jump with another great reaction time, .021. “It’s just great to be going down the track again,” he said. “The car’s running better and better, no doubt about it.”

The NHRA Pro Mod season officially ends after the next race, the Toyota Nationals at Las Vegas – but not for Whiteley, who’ll be “racing” in Comp next weekend at Dallas. Actually, he won’t be racing at all; he’ll just be using that race to test for Vegas under the only kind of conditions drivers see at NHRA events – an NHRA-prepped track. “We’ll just treat every qualifying run a test run,” Whiteley said. “Same thing in the first round. If I accidently beat somebody with a good run, we’ll bypass the scales so they can get back in. We don’t want to mess anybody up – we just want to test under NHRA national event conditions.”

PSM – ST. LOUIS 2016

Just across the river from downtown St. Louis in Madison, Ill., Rookie of the Year candidate Cory Reed enjoyed his finest outing to date at the AAA Nationals at multipurpose Gateway Motorsports Park.

Reed’s Star Racing/YNot Buell got faster run after run in qualifying kept it up well into eliminations, where he advanced to the semifinals for the second time in his career and the second time in the past three races. At Indy, the last race of the regular season, a clutch semifinal performance catapulted Reed into the Countdown to the Championship playoffs. This time, it helped him climb to a career-high ninth in the NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle standings, just ahead of two-time world champ Matt Smith.

“The bike ran good all weekend, until the semi’s,” said Reed, who fell just short of his first final-round appearance when his machine inexplicably slowed a full tenth of a second opposite eventual winner Jerry Savoie. “Something tightened up somewhere – a bearing or the brakes or something was hung up. I could feel it.”

It was a storybook weekend up to that point, with a quicker E.T. showing up on the Gateway scoreboards five times in a row. Reed got things rolling with a 6.951 and a 6.915 on Friday and improved to a 6.910 and a finally a 6.884 that locked up a spot in the fast half of the field for the third time in the past four races.

Reed, who beat L.E. Tonglet in Chicago and lost to him last week in Chicago, put away the former world champ in the opening round with an even quicker 6.873, the second-quickest official run of his career. The bike finally slowed in the quarterfinals, but not nearly enough to cost Reed the round against two-time world champ Eddie Krawiec, the second-ranked rider in the NHRA standings heading into the playoffs and runner-up for the 2015 championship.

“I figured he’d press the Tree,” said Reed of their first head-to-head meeting ever. “Nothing’s ever been said – it was all cordial, all good – but there’s an unspoken beef between the Harley guys and us and I really wanted to cut a teen light on him.” He did, with a .016 reaction time that gave him a two-hundredths advantage going by the Tree, an edge he maintained all the way to the finish line for a 6.921 to 6.925 win, the biggest of his young career.

The rookie was finally toppled in the semifinals, when his bike slipped to a 7.02 – well short of Savoie’s winning 6.92. “Everything else was good early – our 60-foot time and 330-foot times even better than his,” said Reed, who’s now just two points out of eighth place and one round out of seventh. “I have blinders on my helmet, so I can’t really tell if I’m ahead or behind unless the other guy’s way out there, but somewhere before the finish line, I saw him ahead of me. That’s OK. Getting to the semi’s is great. That’s twice now. Now they know we can do it.”

PRO MOD – ST. LOUIS 2015

In the finest performance of his young Pro Mod career, Steven Whiteley dominated qualifying at the NHRA Midwest Nationals in St. Louis, covering the entire field by the unheard-of margin of more than half a tenth for most of the weekend.

After an opening 5.83 at a career-best 249.07 mph earned the YNnot Racing/J&A Service team the early qualifying lead, Whiteley was on a single to close out the second session of qualifying. All he did was unload an unbelievable 5.820, the quickest run of his career, at an even better 249.35, the fastest speed of his career, that put him almost six-hundredths up on No. 2 qualifier Troy Coughlin Jr.’s 5.878.

“Both of those runs and this whole weekend was all about my guys,” Whiteley said. “We were struggling earlier this year, but they stayed with it and you can see the results. I didn’t know exactly what those runs were, but from inside the car I could tell they were really good because they felt just like a lot of great testing runs we’ve made this year.”

Whiteley just missed continuing the all-5.8 barrage with a 5.900 in the final session that actually was a positive despite being slower than previous efforts. “We tried to slow the car down that time,” he said. “We wanted to know that we could take a little out of it without getting into a weak-shake run that doesn’t make it down the track. The car did exactly what it was supposed to, and we felt ready for eliminations.”

Facing No. 16 qualifier Harold Martin, who was no slouch himself with a 5.94 that anchored yet another all-5-second field, Whiteley pounded out another 5.83, again at nearly 250 mph, for a train-length win. The weekend finally came to an end in the second round when he made his worst run of the weekend, a still-good 5.92, in a loss to eventual winner Mike Knowles’ nearly identical 5.91.

“He got out on me, and it screwed me up,” Whiteley admitted. “I short-shifted because I knew I was behind, or the car would’ve run another 5.80-something. That’s on me, but it was still a great weekend. I owe it all to my mom and dad and all my guys who’ve stuck it out and really got this car running the way it is.”

PRO MOD – ST. LOUIS 2015

In the finest moment of his young Pro Mod career, Steven Whiteley assumed the early qualifying lead at the PDRA Mid-America Open at Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Ill., just across the Mississippi River from downtown St. Louis. With an outstanding 3.89 at 190 mph on the eighth-mile course – the only run in the 3.80s in that entire session – Whiteley put himself ahead of everybody in the huge 23-car field, which, in PDRA competition, is known as Pro Boost.

At the wheel of the stunning YNot Racing Cadillac CTS-V, Whiteley followed with a run nearly as good in the second session until problems set in in high gear, a coasting 3.94 at just 183 mph. In the final qualifying session, already solidly qualified in the fast half of the field with the off-the-trailer 3.89, the Grand Junction, Colo.-based team swung for the fences but the track couldn’t hold it and Whiteley had to click it off early.

Unfortunately, Whiteley was out of the gas early again Sunday afternoon in eliminations. Facing the ’00 Corvette of Georgia’s Colby Barber in the first race of the first round of professional eliminations at the rain-plagued event, Whiteley blasted off the line with a respectable .062 reaction time but was done in by massive tire-shake in low gear and slowed to a 6.69.

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