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.”