After an enormous thrash that most teams wouldn’t even have attempted, Annie Whiteley’s J&A Service/YNot Racing Top Alcohol Funny Car team was right back at the top at the Amalie Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla., Whiteley’s first national event appearance of the season. Just days before Whiteley and crew pulled into Gainesville, the entire left rear of her Mustang body was obliterated by a tire explosion at the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series regional event in Houston.
The YNot team, led by veteran crew chief Roger Bateman, got Whiteley’s old car from Topeka to the East Coast, where the body from her 2012 car was grafted onto her current chassis. Right out of the box, the car showed its potential when Whiteley stormed to a 5.59 in the first qualifying session, followed by a 5.54 in last-shot qualifying that positioned her No. 4 in the 16-car field. “I still can’t believe they got all that work done in such a short amount of time,” she said. “It was as good as new, right from the start.”
In the opening round of eliminations Saturday evening, Whiteley put away Canadian Paul Noakes, who won the 2013 Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals in Reading, Pa., in his most recent appearance. Whiteley stormed to a 5.54, the second-quickest run of the round, to cover Noakes’ 5.66. Everything came to a screeching halt in the quarterfinals Sunday afternoon against Australian Steve Harker when her engine was silenced by, of all things, a broke throttle linkage.
“We left, and I was heading out toward the wall a little,” Whiteley said. “I was about to shift, and it just quit. For a second, you’re not sure what’s going because all of a sudden everything just stops. It’s a bad way to lose but it’s not like I absolutely had him covered. He ran a 5.58, low e.t. of the round.”
The highlight of the weekend for the YNot team came in Pro Mod, where son Steven advanced to the quarterfinals in his NHRA national event debut. He qualified sixth of nearly 30 entries with a career-best 5.900, just missing the 5.80s, then took out veteran Mike Knowles in the opening round of eliminations before falling to eventual winner Mike Castellana in the quarterfinals despite an outstanding 5.91.