Tag: Tulsa

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.”

TAFC – TULSA

In the afterglow of the rescheduled Memphis race finished at Tulsa Raceway Park, one of the best overall events in team history, the Throwdown in T-Town turned out to be a major disappointment for YNot Racing, especially in Top Alcohol Funny Car, where both Annie and Jim Whiteley were upended in the first round.

Annie, who has a lifetime win-loss record of 14-4 (.778) in Tulsa, blew the tires off at the hit and fell to former nitro Funny Car racer Steve Macklyn, and Jim did likewise two pair later opposite second-generation driver Brian Brown. Macklyn’s and Brown’s winning times (3.77 and 3.95, respectively) only made the losses even more grating – neither was close to the Whiteleys’ qualifying performances, and both were gone one round later.

“We finished Memphis here, and the first and second round counted as the second and third qualifying runs for Tulsa,” Annie said. “We got an extra run because we were in the final [of the rescheduled Memphis event], and after that, I think it all got a little confusing for everybody.”

Annie qualified No. 3 for the Throwdown in T-Town with a 3.66 at 211.56 mph – quicker and faster than she’d just run to win the rescheduled Memphis event. Jim, racing his beautiful white Camaro for just the second time, wasn’t far behind, but neither cracked the six-second mark on the eighth-mile course in their brief stay in eliminations.

“You just won the Memphis race, and now you’re nothing?” asked Annie, who won back-to-back NHRA regionals here in in 2012 and 2013 and reached the final a third straight time in 2014. “Sometimes, I guess that’s just how it goes: in a few hours you really can go from a hero to a zero, just like they say. I don’t know what the hell happened up there – the car just didn’t make it that time. It took the tire off. Jim’s car did the exact same thing, and we didn’t change a thing on either one.”

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.”

TAFC – MEMPHIS

In her first (and last) trip to Memphis International Raceway, Top Alcohol Funny Car star Annie Whiteley nailed down her first event title of the 2022 season. It just didn’t actually happen in Memphis.

Final eliminations were contested in Tulsa, where the rained-out originally scheduled event was completed because Memphis, home to numerous NHRA national events since it opened 35 years ago, is now closed, doomed forever, like so many race tracks these days, to a dreary future as commercial property.

“We got two qualifying runs in Memphis but never did run a round there,” Whiteley said. “You’ve never seen anybody want to race as much as [husband] Jim did, and he never got to. We kept trying to run and kept getting sent back to the pits. We were just going up for first round when water started coming back up through the track again and they called the race for good. At that point, there really wasn’t much they could do.”

Except move it to Mid-West Drag Racing Series headquarters in Tulsa, where Whiteley, who’s always done well there, mowed down the field for a convincing victory. At tracks more than 400 miles apart, she had everybody covered from beginning to end, starting with a 3.69 at an even 211.00-mph flat on the slippery Memphis strip and closing the deal with more 3.60s in Oklahoma.

With a whole ‘nother race to run (the originally scheduled Throwdown in T-Town), Funny Car teams were afforded just a single get-acquainted run before Memphis eliminations began in Tulsa, her childhood home. At the controls of the YNot/J&A Service missile, she went through everybody, easily outdistancing onetime nemesis Chris Marshall in the final. When his candy-red Camaro went silent at half-track, she sailed uncontested to a 3.68 win while he coasted across the finish line well behind her with a 5-flat.

PRO MOD – TULSA 2021

As the back-loaded Mid-West Drag Racing Series season barrels toward another nail-biting conclusion, Jim Whiteley kept himself in contention for the 2021 Pro Mod championship, barely, with a huge weekend at Tulsa Raceway Park.

Inclement weather this summer postponed multiple events, forcing MWDRS officials to make the Throwdown in T-Town, already one of the biggest events on the calendar, a doubleheader – three days, two races, double the points, and double the purse for the same travel. Whiteley starred all weekend, driving his supercharged split-window Corvette to both finals, but both times he came away empty-handed, with no wins and two more runner-ups.

The two-time NHRA Top Alcohol Dragster world champ, 23-7 in national event finals in that category and 2-0 lifetime in NHRA Pro Mod finals, collected more round-wins over the extended weekend (six) than anyone, but he still can’t seem to buy a MWDRS win. He finished second for the second and third times this season, narrowly red-lighting in the Friday final against points leader Joey Oksas, and, for once, flat-out getting outrun in the Saturday final against series founder Keith Haney.

In the first race, held Thursday and Friday, Whiteley led all qualifiers with a 3.709, two-thousandths of a second ahead of Ed Thornton’s 3.711 but 18 mph slower on the top end, 219 to 201. He plowed through Chris Juliano, Rob Gallegos, and Haney in the preliminary rounds, but, plagued by -.00 red-lights all year, was undone by another one in the final. An infuriating -.003 foul start nullified his excellent 3.69/203 and made a winner of Oksas’ early-shutoff 4.14/134.

Qualifying for the second race commenced immediately, and when it was over Whiteley was third in the order and well on his way to another final-round appearance. Haney entered eliminations with the upper hand, No. 1 with a 3.67 that placed him just ahead of the matching 3.69s of Oksas, Whiteley, and 2020 series champ Ron Muenks.

Whiteley ran quicker than anybody in the opening round (3.70), then proceeded to erase Zach Barklage in the quarterfinals and, for easily his biggest round-win of the 2021 MWDRS season, Oksas in a crucial semifinal showdown that made him the first to beat the suddenly unbeatable upstart in the past 14 rounds.

In the final round opposite Haney, Whiteley rolled in first, turned it green, and was right there all the way with a strong 3.68/202, but Haney’s sinister-looking nitrous-powered machine got around him at the top end with a superior 3.67/207, relegating Whiteley to runner-up for the third time in MWDRS competition this year.

TAFC – TULSA 2021

From the beginning, Annie Whiteley seemed destined to finish fourth in the 2021 Mid-West Drag Racing Series Funny Car standings. Right in the middle of it race after race but somehow always a half-step behind, she hit Tulsa, her childhood home, dead-set on nabbing that elusive first career MWDRS event title.

It didn’t happen. Bill Bernard arrived with a four-point lead over incoming favorite Sean Bellemeur, who’d earned more points per race than anyone all year but skipped the U.S. 131 Nationals to run the NHRA event at Maple Grove. Whiteley and Chris Marshall were right behind both, but at the conclusion of back-to-back events over three days of the epic Throwdown in T-Town doubleheader, her YNot Racing/J&A Service team was officially out of title contention.

It wasn’t that Whiteley didn’t have an opportunity to stay in the points race or that she just didn’t run hard. She did. The six-time NHRA national event champion qualified fifth for the Thursday/Friday event and powered into the semifinals, where she was upended by eventual winner Bellemeur, 3.72 to a shutoff 9.52. Marshall ran quicker in the final, but Bellemeur, who’s forged a reputation as one of the finest drivers ever to strap into an Alcohol Funny Car, got him on a holeshot.

Marshall then led all qualifiers for the other race with an outstanding 3.60, just ahead of Bellemeur’s 3.62 and Whiteley’s 3.66. He’d go on to claim a crucial final-round win when Bellemeur’s crankshaft snapped in half around the half-track mark, setting in motion one of the more violent explosions in the history of alcohol racing and more or less destroying his whole car. By then, Whiteley had already been eliminated, victimized by second-generation driver Bryan Brown, 3.69/207 to her shutoff 4.20/133.

All in all, the YNot team displayed remarkable consistency throughout the 2021 campaign, scoring 69 points in Ferris, 66 at the rescheduled I-30 race in Tulsa, 69 in Tulsa, 67 in Grand Bend, and 70 in Martin, but this 48-point effort knocked them out of the championship. With one race left, the title’s now officially out of reach – a win is worth 110 points, and Whiteley trails Bellemeur by 118.

TAFC – TULSA 2020

Back in her childhood hometown of Tulsa, Okla., where she now has a career win-loss record of 10-2, Annie Whiteley, one day removed from a final-round showing at the rain-delayed, Martin, Mich., event, entered eliminations for the Throwdown in T-Town qualified just fifth – good for most drivers but not for her. “Tulsa’s just a track we’ve always liked,” she said. “We’ve always done pretty well there.”

That’s putting it mildly: the YNot/J&A Service team a had lost but a single round at Tulsa Raceway Park, the 2014 NHRA regional final, after winning in 2012 and 2013, the first two years of Whiteley’s career. (Husband Jim made it a clean sweep both times, double-doubling with her in his last two years in and Alcohol Dragster, both of which culminated in national championships.)

With some of the biggest names in Top Alcohol Funny Car in attendance, including the drivers who’ve combined to win the past five NHRA championships – Jonnie Lindberg (2015-16), Shane Westerfield (2017), and Sean Bellemeur (2018-19) – Bryan Brown didn’t seem like the worst first-round draw anybody ever got. But Brown, son of veteran Texas driver Burl Brown, is who Whiteley faced, and he went on to claim his first major victory.

Whiteley was more than on time with a .047 reaction time but didn’t make it to the 60-foot line before all hell broke loose. A troubled 1.06 60-foot time spiraled into an aborted 6.07 at 81 mph, while Brown advanced with low e.t. and top speed of the round, a 3.65 at 209 mph, and ran right with the top contenders all night.

The bump was an unbelievable 3.72, and everybody ran at least a 3.74 except Top Fuel pro Scott Palmer, who returned to Top Alcohol Funny Car for the first time in 18 years just for the hell of it and managed an early-shutoff best of 3.94. “These Midwest Drag Racing Series races are great,” Whiteley said. “You race at night, you might not run first round till 10 o’clock and run the final at 2 o’clock in the morning. But there’s people everywhere. The whole world’s shut down and they have to turn people away because they’re already at capacity.”

TAFC – MARTIN/TULSA 2020

Starting at a track she’d never been to in her life and finishing a month later 800 miles away at a facility at which she’d never not made the final round, Annie Whiteley turned in her finest performance to date in Midwest Drag Racing Series competition, trailering some of the greatest Alcohol Funny Car racers ever along the way.

Originally scheduled for Sept. 11-12 at U.S. 131 Dragway, the completely rebuilt facility in Martin, Mich., has always been fast, dating back the Popular Hot Rodding Championships in the ’70s, the most prestigious race that wasn’t an NHRA, AHRA, or IHRA national event. Whiteley qualified with a 3.71 (eighth-mile) at the outrageously fast speed of 215 mph, and in the first round dropped the most feared driver in Top Alcohol Funny Car today, Sean Bellemeur. Then it rained. And rained. And kept right on raining until series founder Keith Haney was forced to move the remainder of eliminations to MWDRS’ home base, Tulsa Raceway Park, for double points at the season finale.

At Tulsa, the YNot/J&A team picked up right where it left off in Michigan, taking out another two-time NHRA world champ, Jonnie Lindberg, to make a fourth straight final at the Oklahoma track. The Swedish driver red-lighted, invalidating a 3.675 at 212.43 mph, but Whiteley had him all the way with a nice .054 reaction time and a quicker 3.671 at 211.59.

In the final against perennial contender Chris Marshall, Whiteley got off the mark first with a clutch .023 reaction time and posted an E.T almost identical to her winning semifinal time, a 3.68 at 211 mph. But with a quicker 3.64/210, Marshall ran her down by 19-thousandths of a second to win $15,000 – the same winner’s purse Top Fuel and Funny Car drivers are racing for at NHRA national events for the rest of the year.

“I hated to lose, but we still had fun,” Whiteley said. “I really like this Midwest Drag Racing Series deal. Haney’s a racer. He’s not pocketing all this money. There’s a plan. They’re happy you’re here, and if Super Pro loses a session because of the weather, the Funny Cars do, too. It doesn’t matter who you are – everybody’s equal, nobody is better than anybody else.”

TAFC – TULSA 2014

Defending event champ Annie Whiteley, who had never lost a round at Tulsa Raceway Park in her Top Alcohol Funny Car career, dropped a close final to fellow championship contender Dale Brand, 5.61 to 5.62. Whiteley, who wheeled the YNot Racing/J&A Service Mustang to victory at the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series regional here in both 2012 and 2013, ran quicker than anyone had to that point, but Brand outran her by a scant hundredth of a second with low e.t. of the meet, 5.61. Both hit the finish line at 255 mph.

“Dale’s always good on the lights,” Whiteley said. “He got ahead early, and we stayed pretty much the same distance apart all the way to the finish line.” Whiteley and Brand were locked together in qualifying, too, earning the No. 1 and No. 2 spots, respectively, with matching 5.62s at 257 mph side by side in the final pair of last-shot qualifying. Whiteley was slightly quicker, 5.620 to 5.628, and Brand slightly faster, 257.38 mph to 257.14.

In the opening round, Whiteley got the best of an all-female matchup with No. 6 qualifier Nancy Matter, who was back in competition for the first time in more than five years. She clicked it a hair early and still won comfortably, 5.69, 249 to Matter’s shutoff 7.78 at 120 mph.

“The car drove toward the centerline and wouldn’t come back,” Whiteley said. “One tire was spinning and the other was still in the groove, and I couldn’t get it back in the center of the lane no matter what I did. I don’t know how close I got to the centerline, but it was close – I was actually afraid I might have crossed it.”

Whiteley followed with a strong 5.68 on a semifinal single earned by being the No. 1 qualifier in a short field, but Brand gained the upper hand for the final with a slightly quicker 5.65 in his semifinal win over third-ranked Shane Westerfield. In the final, Brand was four-thousandths of a second quicker to the 60-foot mark, two-thousandths and 0.34 mph faster at half-track, and 12-thousandths quicker at the 1,000-foot mark, and for the second time six days Whiteley came out on the wrong end of a classic final. Last week in Denver, she was nipped by Clint Thompson, 5.78 to 5.78.

Next up for the YNot/J&A Service team is the Route 66 Nationals in Chicago, where last year Whiteley earned her first national event title, followed by the Summit Racing Nationals a week later in Norwalk, Ohio.

TAD/TAFC – TULSA 2013

Jim and Annie Whiteley dominated the Lucas Oil Series race at Tulsa for the second year in a row, Jim in Top Alcohol Dragster, and Annie in Top Alcohol Funny Car. Jim won for the fourth time this season and the second week in a row, including Denver, and Annie remains undefeated at the Tulsa track and now has a lifetime record of 22-4 in regional competition.

“Those were tough, tough conditions,” said Jim, whose third regional victory of the season (including Las Vegas and Denver) gives him a perfect score on that side of the ledger – 255 points. “100 degrees makes for some pretty miserable weather to race in, but all the guys on both teams worked their butts off and we got it done.”

Whiteley qualified No. 1 with a 5.38 and set low e.t. with a 5.37 but may have left a little on the table. “We ran a 5.32 here last year, and we might have been able to run a little quicker this year than we did, but it wasn’t worth the risk. When it’s that hot, it’s not hard to smoke the tires.”

Whiteley drove his J&A Service/YNot Racing dragster to a 5.43 in the first round to cover David Brounkowski and a 5.37 in the semifinals opposite Randy Meyer in a rematch of last year’s final. The final against Brandon Pierce was over early when Pierce smoked the tires immediately, leaving Whiteley to a long-gone 5.44.

Annie remained undefeated at Tulsa in her young Alcohol Funny Car career, qualifying No. 1 with a 5.66 that held up all weekend for low e.t. and cruising through the first two rounds of eliminations. Her 5.69 in the new Texas J&A Service Mustang, the only run in eliminations in the 5.60s, covered Bryan Brown in round one. She blew through the clutch in semifinals and slipped to a 5.78 but still got around Kirk Williams and entered the final against Scott McVey as a prohibitive favorite.

All appeared lost when Annie’s car blew the tires off not far off the line, but when McVey’s engine blew, she recovered to post a winning 6.17 at 241 mph. “I was just starting to push the clutch in, and thought, ‘Oh, wait – he’s not there,’ ” she said. “I’ve short-shifted my way out of shake before, but I’ve never won a round like that. The car was in second gear for a long time – I didn’t think that shift-light was ever going to come on – and it seemed to take forever for the finish line to get there.”

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