Father’s influence drives Steven Whiteley in drag racing


ESPN Feature

Drag races at the Western Colorado Dragway will be featured with other regional tracks during the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Pacific Raceways from 5-6 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 14. Time and date are subject to change.

NHRA announcer Bob Frey and camera man Mike Panek shot footage of the drag races July 16 at Western Colorado Dragway.

From the moment he was born, Steven Whiteley has been around drag racing.

“Before I was even born my dad raced,” said Steven, the son of National Hot Rod Association top alcohol dragster Jim Whiteley. “When I was old enough, like four or so, I’d go to the races with him and just hang out.”

Despite being around racing, the sport wasn’t his first love.

“I didn’t have a big interest in drag racing when I was little, to be honest,” he said. “I just enjoyed watching my dad do it.”

But now, at age 18, Steven is among the top racers in the NHRA Division 7 top sportsman class and is the points leader in the super quick class at the Western Colorado Dragway. Saturday at the dragway, he raced for a “Wally” trophy, named after NHRA founder Wally Parks.

Frank Santurosa of Draper, Utah, won the Wally trophy in the Super Quick race. Tim Lucius of Fruita won the Gizmo Wally and Dan Hardy took home the Wally in the No G class.

Whiteley initially got into drag racing at age 8 and within a few years was collecting local championship trophies in a junior dragster.

“When I raced juniors I had three championships, one after another, and that’s when I was like ‘yeah, this is fun, I want to do this,’ ” he said.

As he progressed in the sport — with plenty of help from his father — he learned to enjoy the speed and acceleration. More than anything, though, he found a thrill in the competition.

“It’s almost impossible to win,” he said. “You need to have luck on your side.”

When he turned 16, Whiteley left the junior dragsters and now races a 1969 Chevy Camaro that routinely runs around 200 miles per hour. He ran 173.95 mph at 7.994 seconds in the first round of eliminations.

Last year, his first in the sportsman races, he finished sixth in points in Division 7.

“Door cars in my opinion are cool,” he said. “You get to drive them actually. These (dragsters) are pretty much in a straight line and they’re stuck there. Mine, they like to walk around a bit. You do get to drive these cars a little bit.”

While Steven was racing locally, his dad was in Seattle at the NHRA Northwest Nationals.

“This is actually the first race ever where he hasn’t been in the same place as me,” he said. “This morning I noticed it was a little different without dad here, but it doesn’t bug me. I can handle myself.”


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