Whiteleys respected as racers, respected as people
Everyone said some variation of it, unsolicited and without fail: Jim and Annie Whiteley are down-to-earth, good people.
The Grand Junction husband and wife who race Top Alcohol Dragster and Funny Car, respectively, in the NHRA’s Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series tend to win races and friends at the tracks they frequent. That came across loud and clear during interviews for today’s article about the great success they had last season and what they’ll try to do for an encore this year.
“Jim and Annie both are two of the nicest people I’ve ever met,” said Norm Grimes, Jim Whiteley’s crew chief.
“We’ve gotten to be pretty good friends. They are really, really good people,” said Randy Meyer, a competitor of Jim’s in Top Alcohol Dragster.
The first words out of the mouth of Funny Car owner Rick Jackson, when asked if he was willing to talk about the Whiteleys, was: “They’re a great group of folks.”
And Top Alcohol Dragster owner Joe Severance said, “They’re really nice people. Everyone really likes Jim and Annie both. ... They’re always there to help you out if you need anything.”
Meyer said the Whiteleys have become like family to him. Never mind that it’s been a while since he’s beaten Jim, Top Alcohol Dragster’s reigning national champ.
“It’s hard to get mad when he beats you,” said Meyer, a two-time national champion who happened to be the driver trailing Jim when he set the record for a blown-alcohol dragster in the quarter mile, 5.178 seconds, in the semifinals of the Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals in November. “I’m glad to go drink beer with him at the end of the day — win, lose or draw.”
Meyer said Jim and Annie even help sponsor two of his daughters who drag race, and that was another theme that stood out when people talked about the Whiteleys. They’re quick to help others.
And the way it benefits the most people is their donations of time and money to Western Colorado Dragway, 115 32 Road.
Jim Whiteley can’t say enough good things about the local dragway and how appreciative he and Annie are of the help their YNot Racing team receives from it.
“Western Colorado Dragway is my favorite place to race,” Jim said. “It’s as good as any place I’ve ever raced at. … The people out there, they do a helluva job. They treat us like kings and queens when we go out there, which they shouldn’t, but they do.”
A much different perspective on the relationship is offered by Bryan Carmack, the current manager of Western Colorado Dragway, and Doug Styers, who managed the dragway along with his wife, Teri, for 11 years before taking a job with YNot Racing.
“They’ve contributed to the race track a lot. Without them, a lot of the improvements out there wouldn’t have happened,” said Styers, adding Jim and Annie don’t seek recognition for it.
They do, however, attach the name of their business, J&A Services, to the four-race J&A Services Super Quick Series at the dragway and put up the prize money. Because the Whiteleys do that, Carmack said, the money the track receives from the participating drivers can go back into improving the dragway.
And while Jim expresses his gratitude to the dragway for allowing him and Annie to run their cars there whenever they come calling, Carmack said it’s really the Whiteleys doing Western Colorado Dragway a favor.
Other drivers of their caliber, Carmack said, would charge the dragway $3,000 to $3,500 to make an appearance there and probably do two runs.
Jim and Annie appear for free, and Styers said they always draw a crowd.
“It was as much fun for me when they were out there, watching them do it, as it was for them to test,” he said.
Carmack said regular racing events at Western Colorado Dragway will draw about 500 people. When one of the Whiteleys brings a car to make several runs, the dragway will draw 1,500 people.
“What we provide them, it’s not even close to what they offer to this track,” Carmack said.