At the Summit Racing Nationals in Norwalk, Annie Whiteley, tied for seventh in the national standings, was upset in the first round of eliminations for the second week in a row – again after a particularly strong performance in qualifying. Whiteley, a Top 5 driver in each of her two years in Top Alcohol Funny Car, qualified the J&A Service/YNot Racing entry second in the field with an outstanding 5.56 at 261.78 mph and also ran a 5.60-flat during qualifying, but she went up in smoke right off the line in the first round and fell to 2011 event winner Fred Hagen Jr.
“When it smoked the tires at Chicago, there was nothing I could do,” said Whiteley, who had been a finalist at three of four races before this recent slump. “This one was my fault. The rpm was too high when I let the clutch out because I didn’t get the swap right – I led a little too much with my right [throttle] foot.”
“No way that thing’s going to make it when there’s 18 pounds of boost at the hit,” said crew chief Roger Bateman, a veteran of more than 3,000 runs as a driver. “I don’t care how good the starting line is; that’s too much.”
Teammate Mike Strasburg, fresh off his first Top Alcohol Dragster win in 13 years, scored for the second time in three outings and for the first time ever in national event competition with a final-round victory over Mark Taliaferro. In his first season back in the class since beginning his Top Fuel career more than a decade ago, Strasburg is up to fifth in the standings.
Driving the car that Jim Whiteley wheeled to the 2013 national championship, Strasburg banged out back-to-back high-5.30s to qualify for a field so tough that early season points leaders Duane Shields and Joey Severance missed the cut. He marched through the preliminary rounds of eliminations with one 5.30 after another against past national event winners Robin Samsel, Bill Reichert, and Rich McPhillips, then topped Taliaferro in the final, 5.45 to 5.68.