Steven Whitely didn’t expect his 2019 season in the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service to go the way it has, but a strong showing in Charlotte has him excited he can end the year on a strong note.
But getting to this point wasn’t easy, as Whiteley was involved in a crash in Topeka, missed one race because of it and then failed to qualify at the two events after that as his team got accustomed to a new car. The team took a massive step forward in their blown J&A Service/Y-Not Racing Chevrolet Camaro in Charlotte, posting a runner-up, and Whitely will look to build on that as part of this weekend’s Dodge NHRA Nationals Presented by Pennzoil at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway to close out the 2019 NHRA Pro Mod campaign.
“It has been such a tough year, so Charlotte was big,” Whiteley said. “We really wanted to run well and end the season on a high note, and everyone did well. It was cool we were able to pull everything together. This is another big race and, overall, we’re feeling really good. Charlotte was the race where we finally started to make the turn. It doesn’t mean we can say we’ve got this licked, but it just means we’re going in a favorable direction. Now, it’s trying to take that further.”
The race, which is presented by Elite High Performance, is the last of 12 events during the 2019 E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series season and will be shown on Fox Sports 1 (FS1) and Fox Sports 2 (FS2). Sidnei Frigo is the defending event winner, while Stevie “Fast” Jackson has already claimed the world championship in the class after his dominant season.
Whiteley, though, still has plenty to race for, including his second career victory in the class, but it’s been a bumpy road along the way this year. In Topeka, Whiteley was involved in a crash when Todd Tutterow came into his lane just past the finish line. It put Whiteley’s team out of commission for a few weeks and when they did return, it took ample time to get things right in a different car. It was frustrating, but Whiteley and his team kept pushing forward.
“That’s the nature of the sport,” Whiteley said. “There’s always going to be another car in the other lane, and that the chance you’re going to take. The class is growing and progressing at such a rate if you’re not proactively trying to be better, you’re already behind. There’s some areas where we missed the mark and other areas where we’re close. You’re going to have bad moments, it’s about figuring out how to not let it eat at you and use it as motivation.”
Whiteley is plenty motivated to finish his season in style, but wading through the talent-filled class won’t be easy. Jackson is after two straight wins to end his incredible championship season, while others to watch include Tutterow, Mike Janis, Mike Castellana and Brandon Snider. Whiteley was impressively consistent en route to his finals appearance in Charlotte, something he hopes his team can repeat in far different conditions at Las Vegas.
“I think we can run well and it would be huge to end this year on a good note,” Whiteley said. “It’s a testament to how hard my guys have been working. The biggest thing is we hope to finish well and race well this weekend. It helps you head into the off-season already pumped up, so that would be very nice. This team is very determined, and they’re on an entirely different level than anything I’ve encountered before. It’s just a very determined atmosphere.”
Elite High Performance is the presenting sponsor for the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series race in Las Vegas, as the class wraps up a memorable 2019 season that has had eight different winners. Featuring the world’s fastest doorslammer race cars, the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service 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.
The first of four E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service qualifying sessions takes place at 12:00 and 2:35 p.m. on Friday, and the final two rounds of qualifying take place on Saturday at 12:90 and 2:45 p.m. The first round of Pro Mod eliminations are scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on Sunday.
To purchase general admission or reserved seats, call 800-644-4444. Tickets also are available online at www.lvms.com/tickets/nhra/. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. To honor the Salute to First Responders, military and first responders can save 20 percent on general admission tickets at the gate.