Running within hundredths of a second round after round after round, Annie Whiteley reached the final at the Lucas Oil Series regional at Denver’s mile-high Bandimere Speedway only to fall short by 14-thousandths of a second. She and veteran Clint Thompson left the line within 17-thousandths of a second of each other and both ran 5.78s, but Thompson emerged victorious in a photo-finish decision.
“I never saw him the whole way,” said Whiteley, who has three final-round appearances in her first six starts of 2014. “He never saw me, either. We’d both been running the same thing all day long and we did it again in the final – it just didn’t fall our way.”
Whiteley qualified No. 1 qualifying with an outstanding 5.74, resetting her own track record, then set low e.t. of all three rounds of eliminations. Driving the Roger Bateman-tuned YNot Racing/J&A Service Ford Mustang, she sped to a 5.76 on a first-round single earned by being the top qualifier in a field with an odd number of cars, then lowered the boom in the semifinals with another track record, 5.728, against Wyoming’s Kris Hool.
Thompson was the picture of consistency all weekend, qualifying No. 2 with a 5.779 and running 5.78s in all three rounds of eliminations. He was slightly slower than Whiteley in the final, 5.786 to 5.783, but slightly quicker on the Tree, .070 to .087, to win by just five feet. Both drivers crossed the finish line at 248 mph. “That’s three pretty good years in a row at Bandimere,” Whiteley said. “One semifinal and now two runner-ups. Maybe next year it’ll be my turn.”
In Top Alcohol Dragster, veteran Mike Strasburg kept the YNot team’s unbelievable streak going on the mountain. At the wheel of the same car that Jim Whiteley drove to the national championship and to victory at this race last year, Strasburg won the final on a holeshot over Mark Taliaferro – amazingly by the exact same margin of victory as Whiteley lost by in the Top Alcohol Funny Car final: 14-thousandths of a second. For Strasburg, who moved to Top Fuel in 2002, it was the third Top Alcohol Dragster victory of his driving career and his first since 2001.