After tearing up the Top Alcohol Funny Car ranks from the time she broke through to win in just the fourth start of her rookie season, J&A Service/YNot Racing driver Annie Whiteley finally hit the first slump of her career.
An upset first-round loss at the biggest race of the season, the U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis, where last year she made it to the final and barely lost, was Whiteley’s fourth first-round defeat in five races. It happened just four times in her entire rookie campaign, when she amassed a 26-11 win-loss record and tied for fourth in the national standings, and just five times all last year, when she put up a 23-12 mark and finished fourth in the nation.
2014 hasn’t been a washout – Whiteley currently is locked in a three-way tie for eighth place in the national standings and has three final-round appearances in the bank – but it’s been no 2012. “This stinks,” said Whiteley, who qualified No. 5 at Indy with an off-the-trailer 5.61 that covered the other 23 drivers by the almost unheard-of margin of half a tenth. She ended up No. 5, solidly in the fast half of the field as she has been at every race but one this year, but shook violently against Jay Payne, who qualified just 12th but went on to win the event.
“It was a weak shake,” she said. “It wasn’t that we overpowered the track – that track was way better than anyone thought it was going to be. Usually when you short-shift, the shake goes away, but that time, short-shifting just made the car shake harder.”