Sunday, June 17, 2012
Whiteley Wins Fifth in a Row, Williams Back on Top
by Todd Veney
MORRISON, Colo. -- Jim Whiteley won Top Alcohol Dragster for the fifth year in a row at the Western Regional event at Bandimere Speedway, and former Division 5 champion Kirk Williams overcame quicker cars with unerring consistency to score in Top Alcohol Funny Car.
With his fourth win in his last five outings, Whiteley has tied early season points leader Chris Demke atop the national Top Alcohol Dragster standings – and he's done it in two fewer starts. The Grand Junction, Colo., driver dominated this one from start to finish, qualifying No. 1 with a 5.47 and running more than a tenth quicker on his slowest run all weekend than any other driver did on his best.
"I tried to make sure I saw a little more of the bulb than usual before I left," said Whiteley, whose only loss in the last five races came on a -.001 red-light in the Topeka semi's. "It's actually kind of hard to slow yourself down just a little bit on the Tree without slowing down a lot. We've had a decent advantage on the field a time or two over the years, especially here, but never this much."
Whiteley qualified No. 1 with a 5.47 – two-tenths ahead of eventual runner-up Edwin Schmeeckle's 5.67. He cruised through eliminations with a 5.52 on his first-round single, a 5.54 against Greg Hunter, who went off the end of the track in the semifinals, and a 5.56 in the final against Edwin Schmeeckle, who did his job with a .051 reaction time but fell back with a 5.77.
"I just tried to not let anything get to me and not do anything wrong," said Whiteley, who also beat Schmeeckle in the final round of this event in 2008 and 2009, the years he finished second in the national standings. "You're not going to have a tenth on the field like this very often, so when you do, you can't afford to let it get away from you."
Williams, who dominated Division 5 in 2010, winning five events for a perfect season, qualified No. 3 this time with a 5.89 – well behind Las Vegas regional winner Annie Whiteley's 5.74 and national points leader Tony Bartone's 5.76. "It really knocks the wind out of your sails when you see people running that much better than you are," Williams said, "but this just goes to show that consistency outweighs everything. You won't always win with consistency, but you can win a lot. The track just couldn't take those 5.70 runs, and eventually, it came to us."
Williams struggled with the conditions just like everyone else at the mile-high facility, where the corrected altitude was just short of 10,000 feet, but his team, led by brother Chris Williams and Justin Jacobsen, made three runs within a hundredth of a second of one another in eliminations, a 5.90, 5.91, and 5.91 – all at 242 mph. Williams took out veteran Lance Van Hauen in the opening round with a 5.90 and ran a 5.91 in the semifinals against Mike Bell, who was making his first start in 15-time Division 5 champion Vern Moats' car.
"It smoked the tires on that one, and I don't mean 'hazed' the tires; I mean smoke was pouring off them at about 60 feet," Williams said. "I don't know why, but it cleared up, and the car took off. I still can't believe it made it."
The final against Gainesville regional winner Kris Hool, who also was running steady 5.90s, ended early when Hool red-lighted with a -.042 reaction time. "I saw his car when the yellows came down and thought, 'Man, I just got Tree'd,' but then I saw my win-light on at the top end and knew he red-lighted," Williams said. "There was a pretty good crowd on hand, and I wanted to give them a good show, so I stayed in it."