Perennial Top 5 driver Annie Whiteley had low e.t. by a mile at the rain-plagued Kansas Nationals at Heartland Park Topeka but shook the tires in the first round and was upset by the No. 16 qualifier. “The track got a lot better than we thought it was going to be in eliminations, and it bit us,” said Whiteley, who had more than half a tenth on the field in qualifying. “It made the car shake the tires, and you’re not going to get away with something that against somebody like Doug Gordon. He’s not the kind of guy you expect to qualify No. 16 – ever. We knew they’d get their car figured out for the first round, and they did.”
In qualifying, on a surface that yielded nothing better than a 5.61 to any other car, Whiteley’s J&A Service/YNot Racing Mustang blistered the track with a 5.55 in one of just two qualifying sessions under the rain-shortened format. On her other run, only her quick reflexes saved her from a potentially disastrous trip into the opposite lane.
“There was water on the track,” said Whiteley, who faced the same problem in the final round of her most recent start, the SpringNationals in Houston. “Right at the 2-3 shift, the car turned right and made a move for the centerline. The rpm barely went down when I shifted, then skyrocketed to way over 10,000 rpm. I made one attempt to pull on the wheel, and it wasn’t coming back. You always hear people say that if you ever get in that situation, get the chutes out, and I did or I would have just been along for the ride. It happened so fast. My right hand was still on the wheel because I’d just shifted into high gear, but I got my hand on the chute lever in time and could breathe again.
“Everything was great on the .55, but shaking the tires like that in the first round was a really disappointing way to go out,” Whiteley said. “Fortunately, we’ll have a whole bunch of chances to win coming up real soon.”
After a couple weeks off, the J&A Service/YNot Racing team has four races in the next five weeks – Denver for a Lucas Oil Series Regional; Chicago, where last year Whiteley earned her first national event title; Norwalk; and, for the first time in her career, historic National Trail Raceway in Columbus for another Lucas Oil Series Regional.