Defending event champ Annie Whiteley, who had never lost a round at Tulsa Raceway Park in her Top Alcohol Funny Car career, dropped a close final to fellow championship contender Dale Brand, 5.61 to 5.62. Whiteley, who wheeled the YNot Racing/J&A Service Mustang to victory at the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series regional here in both 2012 and 2013, ran quicker than anyone had to that point, but Brand outran her by a scant hundredth of a second with low e.t. of the meet, 5.61. Both hit the finish line at 255 mph.

“Dale’s always good on the lights,” Whiteley said. “He got ahead early, and we stayed pretty much the same distance apart all the way to the finish line.” Whiteley and Brand were locked together in qualifying, too, earning the No. 1 and No. 2 spots, respectively, with matching 5.62s at 257 mph side by side in the final pair of last-shot qualifying. Whiteley was slightly quicker, 5.620 to 5.628, and Brand slightly faster, 257.38 mph to 257.14.

In the opening round, Whiteley got the best of an all-female matchup with No. 6 qualifier Nancy Matter, who was back in competition for the first time in more than five years. She clicked it a hair early and still won comfortably, 5.69, 249 to Matter’s shutoff 7.78 at 120 mph.

“The car drove toward the centerline and wouldn’t come back,” Whiteley said. “One tire was spinning and the other was still in the groove, and I couldn’t get it back in the center of the lane no matter what I did. I don’t know how close I got to the centerline, but it was close – I was actually afraid I might have crossed it.”

Whiteley followed with a strong 5.68 on a semifinal single earned by being the No. 1 qualifier in a short field, but Brand gained the upper hand for the final with a slightly quicker 5.65 in his semifinal win over third-ranked Shane Westerfield. In the final, Brand was four-thousandths of a second quicker to the 60-foot mark, two-thousandths and 0.34 mph faster at half-track, and 12-thousandths quicker at the 1,000-foot mark, and for the second time six days Whiteley came out on the wrong end of a classic final. Last week in Denver, she was nipped by Clint Thompson, 5.78 to 5.78.

Next up for the YNot/J&A Service team is the Route 66 Nationals in Chicago, where last year Whiteley earned her first national event title, followed by the Summit Racing Nationals a week later in Norwalk, Ohio.