Steven Whiteley knows there will be a target on his back this weekend at Royal Purple Raceway, but in this instance, he is just fine with it. Whiteley won his first NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series race at the 2017 season-opener in Gainesville, putting him atop the points standings for the first time in his career.
As the series returns as part of this weekend’s 30th annual NHRA SpringNationals, Whiteley knows a loaded field will be motivated to make sure a second straight win doesn’t happen.
“That was a very big win for us, and it sets the tempo, at least coming into this race,” Whiteley said. “It took a little bit of pressure off, finally getting that first win, but it maybe adds some more as well. Everybody is aiming to take you out now, and we’re going to have to work even harder. But I think we’re more hungry now than ever as well, and we just have to keep doing what we’ve been doing.”
The race is the second of 12 during the NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series season and will be presented by the Real Pro Mod Association (RPM). Whiteley’s father, Jim, is the defending winner of an event that will be shown on Fox Sports 1 (FS1) and Fox Sports 2 (FS2).
Jim’s win a year ago should give the younger Whiteley an added boost, but he will face off against nearly 30 Pro Mod standouts, including two-time world champ Troy Coughlin, Mike Castellana, Danny Rowe, and Mike Janis. That’s a daunting task, but Whiteley showed impressive progress in Gainesville in his ’14 Cadillac.
He ran 5.791 at 253.52 mph to knock off Castellana in the final round, but remarkable consistency kept Whiteley in the 5.7s and low-5.8s throughout eliminations. That consistency when it mattered proved to be a big step forward for Whiteley, who was happy to see his work pay off.
“In the past, there’s been a lot of times where we’ve qualified well but struggled during race day,” Whiteley said. “The big push was to be better on race day. We didn’t have stellar numbers during eliminations in Gainesville, but we got down the track with very little variance in how we ran. It’s great to see the program starting to come together, and it was a big weight off our shoulders.”
The focus now is taking that consistency and applying it over a prolonged stretch, especially during an important early-season juncture. The NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series starts a stretch of three straight races in Houston, and Whiteley knows he will have to be at his best.
But Gainesville provided a solid baseline for the potential of his team and gave the Grand Junction, Colo., native the belief he can compete with the best in the talent-rich Pro Mod class.
“It’s pretty humbling when you win,” Whiteley said. “There’s a lot of talented people in this class who have been doing this a very long time. The fact that we can qualify and have them look at us a contender is exciting. I’m just some kid who is used to racing a Top Sportsman car now racing against some amazing drivers. To even compete with these guys, I’m very fortunate.”
Featuring the world’s fastest and most unique doorslammer race cars, the NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series offers something for every kind of hot-rodding enthusiast. The class is highlighted by historic muscle cars, like ’67 Mustangs, ’68 Firebirds and ’69 Camaros, as well as a variety of late model American muscle cars. With more than 3,000 horsepower, the suspended door Pro Mod cars travel the quarter-mile in less than six seconds at speeds exceeding 250 mph.
NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series qualifying begins Friday, April 21, with qualifying sessions at 4 and 6 p.m., continuing with the final qualifying session on Saturday, April 22, at 3 p.m. Round one of eliminations is later on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. and continues on Sunday, April 23, at 12:15 p.m.
To purchase event tickets, call (281)-383-7223 or visit RaceRPR.com. Kids 13 and under are free with a paid adult spectator side ticket. To honor the Salute to First Responders, military and first responders can save 20 percent on spectator side tickets at the gate.