Under gray, threatening skies at Houston’s Royal Purple Raceway, Annie Whiteley lost traction not far off the line in the Spring Nationals Top Alcohol Funny Car final and fell to Shane Westerfield. “It was spitting rain as we were staging,” she said. “I could see drops all over the windshield. They’d wipe ’em off, but then more drops would be right back on there. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen when we left, and I was kind of thinking they were going to shut us off. I didn’t make it very far before the car started shaking, but I got farther than Shane did.”

Westerfield, who, like Whiteley, broke through for his first national event victory last season, went up in smoke immediately, but he was able to recover and run a 6.31 for his second career title. Whiteley had no such opportunity when her kill switch vibrated into the “off” position during tire shake between the 1.0- and 1.5-second mark, silencing her engine and bringing a premature end to what had been a storybook weekend.

Whiteley qualified her Roger Bateman-tuned J&A Service/YNot Racing Mustang No. 1 with the only run in the 5.50s, a 5.589, and set low e.t. of all three preliminary rounds of eliminations. She lowered low e.t. to a 5.580 on a first-round single earned by qualifying No. 1 in a field with an odd number of cars, and took out Todd Veney, who red-lighted, in the quarterfinals with a 5.59. After resetting low e.t. for the third time with a semifinal 5.57 win over Gatornationals runner-up Dale Brand, Whiteley lost traction in the final and coasted helplessly down the track as Westerfield sped away.

“That one hurt,” she said. “I knew Shane was in trouble too, and I didn’t see him for a while. I kept trying to get back in it, but when the engine shuts itself off there’s not much you can do.”