Hot off her first national event victory at the Route 66 Nationals in Chicago, Annie Whiteley suffered a surprise first-round loss at the West Regional at Woodburn Dragstrip in suburban Portland. In an upset-filled first-round in which each car from the fast half of the field was eliminated, Whiteley fell to former Division 7 champion Sean Bellemeur in a close match, 5.67 to 5.71.
“I short-shifted,” said Whiteley, always her own harshest critic. “The weather changed a ton between Saturday and Sunday and slowed everybody down. We were prepared for the track to be tough to get down, and I was ready to short-shift or pedal the car – probably too ready.”
Whiteley’s Texas J&A Service entry was within one-thousandth of a second of Bellemeur’s car at the 60-foot mark and within 9-thousandths at the quarter-track mark, but Bellemeur inched ahead for the upset win. “Looking at the computer, Roger said it was the smoothest run we’d made all weekend, so I didn’t even need to pedal, but at that moment I sure thought I did,” she said.
Whiteley qualified a strong third at what turned out to be the toughest regional event anywhere in the country this season and the second-fastest Alcohol Funny Car field of all time (5.66 bump). Husband Jim Whiteley, who has led the Top Alcohol Dragster national standings almost all season, didn’t compete at this event. Next up for the team is the Lucas Oil Nationals Aug. 16-18 in Brainerd, Minn., where last year Annie reached the first national event final of her career.