Tag: Steven (Page 1 of 6)

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 – MEMPHIS

For Steven Whiteley, the Memphis makeup race at Tulsa Raceway Park will always be more about his teammates than it was about how he himself fared. Wife Delaina enjoyed the finest outing of her burgeoning Top Dragster career with a runner-up finish to his aunt, reigning MWDRS champion Anita Strasburg, and mom Annie Whiteley won Funny Car.

Not that Whiteley didn’t do just fine himself. He breezed into the top half of the field with a 3.73, lifting a little early because the quick, still-unfamiliar rack-and-pinion steering ratio made the car want to dart around on him. “That first run was just my seventh hit back in the car, and you definitely don’t want to oversteer, especially because it’s my dad’s – not mine,” he said. “But if it had been a full pull, that would’ve been straight to the top.”

The numbers bear it out. Every driver who qualified ahead of Whiteley made a hammer-down 200-mph blast through the traps, 20 mph faster than his coasting 183-mph run, yet those drivers were only incrementally quicker, with 3.71s, 3.72s, and 3.73s. Water seeped through the track to such an extent that eliminations had to be canceled in Memphis, and when they finally began, it was two weeks later and more than 400 miles away at Tulsa Raceway Park.

“That first weekend in Memphis was kinda rough,” said Whiteley, who ended up No. 6 with the early-shutoff 3.73/183. “It was just a never-ending battle with the track. We’d walk up there and check it out, there wouldn’t be enough runoff, and the water would collect so they could never get the track in shape for us to run.”

Under vastly different conditions in Tulsa, Whiteley definitively showed what that 3.73 in Memphis could have been by laying down a 3.66 in the first round (half a tenth quicker than No. 1 qualifier Dustin Nesloney’s 3.71 in that round) to wipe out track co-owner Todd Martin’s 3.76.

“This is all fresh, we’re coming off a break, and it’s like everything’s all new again,” he said. “I’m just loving this eighth-mile deal. I’m over the quarter-mile. After the eighth, it almost feels like the car is floating to the finish line. You’re just waiting for something to happen, and you’d better be ready to do something fast if it does. In the eighth-mile, the car’s carrying the front end the whole time, all the weight is on the ass end, and you’re charging all the way to the end. The whole race is more exciting, more intense.”

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 2019

Steven Whiteley’s final start as a Pro Mod driver (at least for now) and father Jim Whiteley’s last this season both went down as an unmitigated success: Jim wound up 2019 on an ascendant arc with his finest performance of the season, and Steven, runner-up the last time out with one teen light after another, reached the quarterfinals in easily the YNot/J&A Service team’s best overall 1-2 finish all year.

Both ran strong in qualifying at the Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Steven with a best of 5.76, the same E.T. he ran under vastly different conditions in Charlotte, and Jim with exactly the same time he ran in Charlotte, right down to the thousandth of a second – 5.805. In the opening round of eliminations, Jim took a hard-fought holeshot win over Norwalk winner Khalid alBalooshi, 5.81 to 5.80, and Steven blew out Doug Winters with one of the best runs of the entire round, a 5.77 at 249 mph.

Just how tough NHRA Pro Mod racing can be was readily apparent in the quarterfinals when Jim fell to championship runner-up Todd Tutterow by just 27-thousandths of a second, 5.81 to 5.83. Steven, facing recent U.S. Nationals winner Mike Castellana two minutes later in the same lane, ran better than six of the other seven drivers that round, another 5.77 at 249 mph that left him just short of Castellana’s sinister black Camaro, which moved on with a 5.75/249.

“I’m done,” said Steven, who, by going rounds for the second race in a row while former Bristol winner Bob Rahaim lost first round for the fourth straight, cracked the season-ending Top 10. “As of right now, spending time with my family and kicking ass at work means more to me than running all over the country racing a Pro Mod car. As much as I love it, Pro Mod has nothing on being with your family.”

PRO MOD – CHARLOTTE 2019

In the second-to-last start of his Pro Mod career, second-generation driver Steven Whiteley turned in his second-best outing ever, behind only his victory at the 2017 Gatornationals. Whiteley drilled everybody on the Tree and reached the final round of the penultimate event of the 2019 season, which “Stevie Fast” Jackson won to clinch the NHRA Pro Mod championship. “This was almost better than winning Gainesville,” he said, “just because of who we had to run. It was great to run with the big guys and not just run with them but beat them.”

With one round-win in 20 career head-to-head matchups against Steve Matusek, lifelong nemeses Rickie Smith and Todd Tutterow, and Jackson heading into the Carolina Nationals, Whiteley went 3-1 against them and started from the No. 5 spot, the highest he’s qualified all season. Matusek, like every driver Whiteley raced all weekend, cut an excellent light, and like the other three he still trailed the J&A Service/YNot Camaro off the line. He was the only one who didn’t make it close, falling well short of the first of Whiteley’s first of four consecutive runs between 5.756 and 5.762.

“Tricky Rickie,” who narrowly lost the U.S. Nationals final on a holeshot, outran Whiteley in the quarterfinals but came up seven feet short for another holeshot loss, 5.761 to 5.757. “He’s always had my number,” said Whiteley, who stood 0-8 against the many-time series champ until now. “Every time I ever lined up against him, he chewed me up and spit out the bones, but it’s different with this car. I just feel good in it. Always did, really. With the converter, I feel like I can cut a light.” That’s putting it mildly – he averaged a .019 reaction time for the event, with a worst of .024. He’s averaging a .029 for the season and leaving first 85 percent of the time.

In the semi’s, Whiteley and Tutterow, who led the early season standings before veering across the centerline in Topeka and T-boning Whiteley’s car, both ran 5.75s. The veteran was more than on time with a .021 light, but Whiteley had him all the way with a .016 to win by 8-thousandths of a second. “It felt really good to put that guy’s ass on the trailer, I can tell you that,” he said. “After all the times I’ve run him – especially Topeka – that had to be the round of my career.”

The final ended in a loss to “Stevie Fast,” who clinched the NHRA championship when Whiteley took out Tutterow, but it wasn’t much of a disappointment. “This was a great weekend,” Whiteley said. “We’ve always run well in Charlotte, probably because we test there more than we do anywhere else. Yes, Stevie has been helping us for a while ­– that’s no secret – but not to the degree that he’s been helping my dad’s team. This weekend was all about [crew chief] Jeff Perley. He really showed his colors here.”

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 – NORWALK 2019

Forced back into his old Cadillac CTS-V after championship contender Todd Tutterow smashed into his Camaro right after the finish line at Topeka, shoving him into the wall and destroying that side of the car too, Steven Whiteley returned to the NHRA Pro Mod tour at the Summit Racing Equipment Nationals in Norwalk. “We’ll just see,” he said before qualifying got under way. “We don’t really have any information for running a torque converter/automatic transmission setup in this old thing. When we ran the Cadillac, it always had a clutch.”

First time out with the unfamiliar combination couldn’t have gone much worse. Whiteley, ranked as high as fifth in the NHRA Pro Mod standings this season and long accustomed to qualifying high and going rounds, didn’t make it into 2nd gear all weekend. Most of the time, he didn’t make it to the Tree. The teams’ first crack at the shotgun wedding marriage of an automatic transmission and the old Cadillac yielded an uninspiring 17-second shutoff Friday afternoon, and this was no time to start from scratch with a converter setup; after just one qualifying session, the bump was already down to 5.88.

Instant shake deep-sixed the Friday night session, too, though Whiteley came within a thousand of a second of a perfect .000 reaction time. Early Saturday afternoon in Q3, it was the same story: off the throttle by the 60-foot mark. The only Cadillac to ever win an NHRA national event left hard in last-shot qualifying, charging hard with the wheels up, but it was all over before the 1-2 shift, and Whiteley coasted silently across the finish line 18 seconds later at 47 mph.

By the time the J&A Service NHRA Pro Mod season resumes over Labor Day weekend at the biggest event in drag racing, the U.S. Nationals, everything will be different. Whiteley will be back in his trusty Camaro, and by then countless test runs with the completely rebuilt machine will be in the logbook. More important, team leader Jim Whiteley will be there with his all-new split-window ’63 Corvette and Pro Mod points leader “Stevie Fast” Jackson calling the shots.

PRO MOD – TOPEKA 2019

Steven Whiteley was minding his own business, charging down the right lane at nearly 250 mph in the first round of the Heartland Nationals, when opponent Todd Tutterow slammed into his car just past the finish line. Sliding sideways out of control across the stripe at 223 mph with a 5.80-flat, one of the quickest Pro Mod runs all weekend, Tutterow, the second-ranked driver of 2019, actually got the win.

But things got ugly fast after the finish line for the grizzled old pro. Tutterow, who won the season-opening Gatornationals and who’s made countless runs under every conceivable track and weather condition, took it a little too far this time, and when he made a correction farther down the quarter-mile than he likely ever has, his ’68 Camaro shot across the track and rammed Whiteley’s car. It trashed the left side of the once pristine ’18 Camaro and shoved it into the other wall, crunching the right side and more or less totaled the car.

“I never saw him until he got close,” Whiteley said. “By then, there’s wasn’t much I could do before he pancaked my car into the wall. He told me, ‘It sucks to tear up your stuff, but it sucks even more when somebody else’s gets torn up, too,’ and I thought, ‘Yeah, no kidding.’ It’s tough knowing your wife, your mom – basically your whole family – is watching. The weird part is that it was exactly one year ago that we debuted this car here at Topeka.”

It was an unfortunate but somehow fitting conclusion to the clash of past Gatornationals champions – Whiteley in 2017 and Tutterow, who’s lived through countless dangerous runs down every backwoods track in the South across all eras of big-time door-car racing, three months ago. In the same round, four cars were destroyed – the 1st Gen and 6th Gen Camaros of Tutterow and Whiteley, the late-model Camaro of Pro Stock/Pro Mod racer Alex Laughlin, who smashed up the left side of his car when he lost vision but pressed on anyway, and the split-window ’63 Corvette of past national event champ Jeremy Ray, who just missed collecting superstar Erica Enders in a frightening crash that opened the single most eventful round in NHRA Pro Mod history.

It marked the end one of the finest-looking Pro Mods to ever grace the J&A Service Pro Mod series but shouldn’t keep Whiteley down for long. The second-generation star will be at Bristol this weekend supporting father Jim Whiteley and back in action next weekend at Norwalk with his old Cadillac. “I’m not sure when the Camaro will be back,” he said. “Maybe Indy.”

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