Whiteley sets mark at dragway
Children sought his autograph and his competitor claimed he wasn’t worthy.
Grand Junction driver Jim Whiteley was on the receiving end of several compliments after breaking a 30-plus year old record Saturday night at the Western Colorado Dragway.
Whiteley ran a 5.758 second pass at 247.43 mph down the ¼-mile track. The previous record of 5.77 seconds, set by Bill Ranney, was believed to have happened in the 1970s.
Whiteley is confident he can go even faster and will give it a couple tries today. Gates open at 9 a.m. with the Whiteley and Jaren Mott of South Jordan, Utah, running their top alcohol dragsters around noon. It is the first time a top alcohol dragster ran the Dragway in more than four years, track co-manager Teri Styers said.
“We’ll see what happens (today),” Whiteley said. “(The car) was spinning hard all the way through the top (finish line).
“We ran a .921 at the 60-foot mark, which is pretty good.”
Whiteley and Mott’s exhibition runs were part of a full day of racing, including the YNot Class, sponsored by Whiteley’s YNot team.
One driver, though, wasn’t able to complete a run, rolling his 1972 Chevy Nova a couple of times. Track officials wouldn’t release the driver’s name, citing HIPPA laws, but he was alert and responding to paramedics on scene, Styers said. He was taken to St. Mary’s Hospital for further examination.
Other than a couple of oil spills, the rest of the runs went without incident.
Mott followed Whiteley’s run with a 5.95-second pass at 235.69 mph, but it wasn’t enough to keep up with Whiteley.
Whiteley is the top-ranked NHRA top alcohol driver in the nation this year. He took second last year and won the World Finals race in an upset of last year’s top driver, Bill Reichert.
Whiteley’s YNot team is led by crew chief Norm Grimes, who previously guided Rick Santos to five consecutive World Championships with the Jack O’Brannon-owned Oakwood Homes Top Alcohol Dragster.
“(A championship) would be neat,” Grimes said. “It’s a tough road to hoe. There are some really good cars out there. On a good day, we’re equal to them. We had some challenges last year with the clutch. It created problems at very inopportune times. I like to feel like we’ve done a better job of adjusting the clutch and making the car more consistent. I’d rather the car go down the race track slowly and gather some information then burn up the tires and gain no information. We’ve taken a more conservative approach and spent more time crossing our Ts and dotting our Is.”
This weekend has been perfect for YNot to experiment and gain more information before the next national event.
“We’re playing with the clutches and the way they are set up,” Whiteley said. “The first pass we were too aggressive. This is a great chance to try a couple things.”
That will only help Whiteley and the YNot team keep heading toward their goal of a World Championship.
With the more conservative approach, Grimes is confident Whiteley can win the World Championship this year.
“In my estimation, Jim started out as an OK driver and I believe he’s grown into a excellent driver,” Grimes said. “It’s rare that you have someone that becomes part of the car and he becomes part of the car. He feels what goes on and gives me information. He has an extreme out of respect for the car. You don’t ever want to get too comfortable or too fearless. I know he can drive the car through just about anything we throw at him, which is a neat deal.”