Tag: topeka

PSM – TOPEKA

It’s not a matter of potential anymore, of what might happen one day. It’s happening. Joey Gladstone is the number one rider in Pro Stock Motorcycle – ahead of Matt Smith, Eddie Krawiec, Angelle Sampey, ahead of everybody.

After back-to-back runner-up finishes put Gladstone on the precipice of that milestone first victory, his Cory Reed Motorsports team has delivered back-to-back wins, including a positively dominant performance at Heartland Park Topeka. It truly was the most commanding win possible: low E.T. of every qualifying session, low E.T. of all four rounds of eliminations. His fifth-best run of the weekend would’ve been low E.T. of the meet.

“I hope this wave never crashes,” Gladstone said. “I’ve been waiting for something like this my whole life, and I’m going to enjoy it while it lasts.” It’s lasted for four races so far – runner-ups in Norwalk and Denver and now back-to-back wins in Sonoma and Topeka. “It’s been a gradual thing, really. We’ve been under the radar; it’s just becoming apparent to other people now.”

Launched by a killer 1.04 60-foot time, Gladstone began the weekend with a 6.831 at 195.08 mph, good for the No. 1 qualifying spot by half a tenth and his first track record. Three bonus points for being quickest of the session moved him to within a single point of the number 1 spot in the standings, and after he was quicker than everybody again Saturday afternoon in Q2 (6.84/196), he had his first-ever points lead.

Opposite overmatched David Barron in the first round, Gladstone left first by a tenth and a half and streaked to 6.83/197 on his Diamond W-backed Suzuki Hayabusa, just missing another track record in a runaway win. On the second-round bye he earned for being the No. 1 qualifier in a 14-bike field, he had the entire field covered with a 6.85/196. Angie Smith provided little opposition in the semi’s with an off-pace 7.08/195, and Gladstone easily advanced to his fourth consecutive final with a 6.87/196.

Waiting for him was his mentor and friend, four-time world champ Eddie Krawiec, the same driver he beat for the breakthrough win in Sonoma three weeks ago. Krawiec was right on time with a .022 light but Gladstone had him all the way with a clutch .009 and a seventh straight run in the 6.80s, 6.87/195.

“I always wondered if it would feel like this,” Gladstone said. “It’s like I’m dreaming. Now, I know the bike will perform in good conditions, bad conditions, hot, cold – anything. It was perfect every lap. This has been a long time coming, and there’s a different kind of pressure on us now – the pressure to get that first win is gone. Now, our expectations are a lot higher.”

TAFC – TOPEKA 2019

Plagued by traction problems all weekend, Annie Whiteley turned in a respectable but ultimately unsatisfying quarterfinal finish at the NHRA Heartland Nationals in Kansas’ capital city of Topeka. The eight-year Top Alcohol Funny Car veteran, who just missed winning this race two years ago, qualified a season-low sixth, still in the fast half of the Top Alcohol Funny Car field, and fell in the second round to Nick Januik.

“We’re struggling right now to find a good tune-up for hot conditions,” said Whiteley, who, for once, barely dipped into the 5.50s all weekend. “It’s the first time all year we’ve run in the heat, and I guess we haven’t quite figured that out yet. We just haven’t made enough runs yet in these conditions with this much power.”

Things started out well enough with a 5.62 at just short of 265 mph in the first of Friday’s two qualifying sessions, but that was followed by aborted runs of 9.36 and 7.97 that left her 6th on the final grid, paired with known leaver Kirk Williams Saturday night in the opening round of eliminations. Williams managed to get off the starting line first, but not by much – just five-thousandths of a second – and it’s a good thing Whiteley was on time because Williams stepped up dramatically and was right on the YNot/J&A Service Camaro’s heels in performance.

Third in the national standings coming into the race, Whiteley laid down her best run of the weekend at just the right time, a 5.59 at 266 mph that snuffed out Williams’ right-there 5.66 at 257. “That was a good race,” she said. “I never saw him the whole way, and I guess he never saw me, either. For him, those runs are the worst – you never see the other car but when you get down there the win light doesn’t come on.”

Sunday was over early when Whiteley fell to Januik, the former Las Vegas winner who had beaten her just twice before, in the second round. Running at 9 in the morning in vastly different conditions than crew chief Mike Strasburg had faced all weekend, she had to lift in 2nd gear before the car got completely out of control. “I hit the bump in that left lane, and it just bounced me over by the centerline,” said Whiteley, who had no choice but to shut off and coast to a 6.30 at 168 mph while Januik disappeared into the distance with a 5.52/264, his best run of the event. “That bump is right where the shift light comes on. Every run in that lane, the shift light would flicker and never come all the way. We had to back it down too much this weekend – if we didn’t, it’d blow the tires off.”

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.”

TAFC – TOPEKA 2018

After plowing through the first third of the season with one late-round finish after another and winning the season opener in Belle Rose, La., Annie Whiteley and the YNot Top Alcohol Funny Car team hit their first bump in their road at the Heartland Nationals in Topeka, Kan. Whiteley, who had reached at least the semifinals of every race all year, was unceremoniously dumped in the first round of eliminations by Texas upstart Bryan Brown, who had never beaten her before.

Whiteley shut off on her first qualifying attempt, coasting to a 7.62 at just 126 mph, and rebounded with a cautious 5.60 at 265 mph on her only other attempt at the rain-plagued event, which put her No. 3 at the time and was good for No. 5 when the last car cleared the traps. Under threatening skies in the first round, with storm clouds gathering and rain clearly on the way, she left with a competitive .074 reaction time, but her best lap of the weekend, 5.59, was edged out by Brown’s virtually identical 5.58. As soon as they exited the track, the skies opened and racing was halted for nearly an hour.

“Not much you can do about a deal like that,” Whiteley stoically said later in the pits. “You can’t shoot for the 5.40s and risk smoking the tires when you have the advantage – you have to just make sure you make it down the track. We did, but not quick enough, I guess. Looking at all the numbers, the guys said there was a lot more left, but what are you going to do? We’ll just try to be better at the next one.”

Next up on the schedule for the YNot/J&A Service Top Alcohol Funny Car team is the Central Regional at Bandimere Speedway just outside Denver, where Whiteley’s husband, Jim, always dominated in Top Alcohol Dragster but where she’s still looking for her first win after one near-miss after another.

PRO MOD – TOPEKA 2018

Until the light turned green in the first round of eliminations, the debut of Steven Whiteley’s immaculate ’18 Camaro at the Heartland Nationals in Topeka, Kan., couldn’t have gone much better. The Jerry Haas-built beast’s first official run was a 5.84 at 251 mph that gave Whiteley the provisional qualifying lead, and after 16 cars had run he was still on top. Next came a better 5.80-flat, a 5.81 that was low for that entire session, and finally a 5.78 that landed him No. 2 of 24 cars on the final grid.

Then came the first round of eliminations, when Whiteley lost traction and Pro Mod veteran Todd Tutterow stepped up dramatically from his 15th-best qualifying time to a 5.80. Whiteley, a winner last year in Gainesville, shoved the clutch in and coasted to a 7.27 at 137 mph while Tutterow disappeared in the distance, bringing a disappointing end to what had been a promising debut.

“We made one full run at St. Louis after leaving Haas’ shop, loaded it up, and went to Topeka and ran that .84 off the trailer,” Whiteley said. “I really can’t complain about a weekend like this with a brand-new car, and I’m still trying to figure out how to drive it – it’s so different from the old car. I can see better, for one thing, but the biggest thing is that it has auto-shift. The old car was the last one out there with a clutch and no auto-shift. I hate auto-shift – it’s boring. You drive the car and it shifts itself and it just seems like, as a driver, you should be doing more. I wish they’d make it a rule that the driver has to shift the car himself, but there’s no rule and this thing shifts at exactly the right time every time, so there’s really no choice.”

PRO MOD – TOPEKA 2017

Steven Whiteley persevered through tornadoes that touched down across the Kansas plains early in the weekend, off-and-on rain that plagued qualifying, and horrendous mechanical carnage in eliminations to maintain second place in the Pro Mod standings.

In contention for the points lead all year with one consistent outing after another, Whiteley’s YNot Racing team bowed out in the Heartland Nationals quarterfinals after posting a strong 5.85 that positioned him 5th of more than 20 drivers in the first qualifying session. He slipped to 15th when a banzai attempt in the only other session ended in severe tire shake and found himself a huge underdog in the first round against Khalid Balooshi.

The former Pro Mod world champ and Top Fuel winner cut a perfectly fine .057 light but Whitely drilled him with a clutch .028 reaction time to win on a holeshot. With its tongue hanging out, his powerful Cadillac CTS, which easily would have run in the 5.70s on all eight cylinders, made it across the finish line first, but at just 244 mph. Balooshi’s turbocharged ’17 Camaro blew past him at 249, but only after they’d crossed the stripe in a 5.81 to 5.81 loss.

“That was a cool run,” Whiteley said. “We got lucky – he had a good light too – but we got the win. I used to cut .00s in my bracket car, but your leg is never going to be as quick as you hand is. I’ve worked at this for a long time, and I think it’s starting to come around. A deal like that, it’s pressure, and that actually helps – when you’re No. 15 and the other guy’s No. 2, you’ve got to cut a light.”

With no idea why the cylinder went out, the team, led by crew chief Jeff Perley, played it safe and changed everything for Sunday – new wire set, new coil, new cap. The power was there against second-round opponent Steven Matusek, but after leaving first Whiteley was left fighting for control when his car tried to shake itself apart.

“It destroyed basically everything,” he said. “The drive shaft, a couple 4-link bars, the wishbone, a rocker panel, a tire, the main hoop. The yoke was half-gone. The carbon driveshaft tunnel: destroyed. Looking at everything, you can’t really tell what happened first. The car will be fixed and heading back to North Carolina by Tuesday night, and then we’ll test the wheels off it, maybe at GALOT [Motorsports Park], where we’ve never run before. When Englishtown gets here, we’ll be ready.”

TAFC – TOPEKA 2017

With a runner-up to John Lombardo, who had never beaten her in national event competition, Annie Whiteley just missed a third win and second national event title early this season. At the Heartland Nationals at sprawling Heartland Park Topeka, where she had laid down multiple 5.40s and some of her best reaction times of the season, she went up in smoke off the line in the final and lost to Lombardo’s sub-par 6.26.

Whiteley took the lead for about 15 feet in the final with a clutch .047 reaction time, then went up in smoke, pedaled until the car was such a bucking bronco that there was no point in continuing, and coasted to a 9.22 at 111 mph. To compound the frustration, Lombardo, who earlier had made the third-best run in class history, 5.398, was pedaling for his life in the other lane, eventually recovering to win with an E.T. that would lose virtually any round at any race all year.

It was a disappointing end to what had been a great weekend. Whiteley and the YNot team reached the final round for the third time in 2017 by knocking off top-ranked Shane Westerfield in the semifinals in one of the closest races of all time. “Shane’s about the last guy I’d ever want to race,” Whiteley said of Top Alcohol Funny Car’s top-ranked driver. “He leaves on everybody. When he wasn’t already ahead of me, I actually thought, ‘I must have had a decent light – I don’t see him’ somewhere in low gear. I heard how close it was later but I never saw him the rest of the way.”

Westerfield was right there, falling to Whiteley’s 5.47 at 269 mph with a 5.44 at 272. Margin of victory: .0002 (1/5000 of a second). It was even tighter than her .0019-second MOV over Lombardo in the Gainesville semi’s that ended up being even more important than this round was, a rare two-for-one: as the winner, she got a single for the Gatornationals title when opponent Dan Pomponio was unable to return from a blown engine in the other semi.

Whiteley, who ended up No. 3 in rain-shortened qualifying with a 5.48/270 and erased Brian Hough in the quarterfinals with an outstanding 5.43/273, was grateful to still be around after the first round. Granted a first-round bye when Jeff Jones was unable to return after destroying an engine on an explosive, fiery qualifying run, she suffered some engine damage of her own, blowing up well before half-track and coasting to a 7.65 at 104 mph. “We had to change everything,” she said. “We didn’t end up winning, but the guys fixed everything and had the car running better on Sunday than it already was.”

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