Perennial Top 10 driver Annie Whiteley suffered a frustrating first-round loss at the Toyota Nationals at the Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, by far her best track on the entire NHRA circuit. The third-year veteran won the first race of her Top Alcohol Funny Car at the desert supertrack in April 2012, runner-upped at the national event there that fall, and scored again the late-season regional there, annually the toughest race of the season. It was the same thing last year: a clean sweep of both Vegas regionals.
This year? Not so much. Whiteley qualified No. 3 in the tough field but was eliminated in the first round of the Toyota Nationals by Top 5 driver Doug Gordon in a rematch of their Topeka first-round race, where she also was upset after qualifying No. 1. Gordon fought for traction in an on-and-off-the-throttle 5.73 win while Whiteley’s J&A Service/YNot Racing Mustang, which had charged to a 5.55 in qualifying, slipped to a 6.18.
“We just didn’t have enough for a track that good,” Whiteley said. “Doug didn’t make a great run either, but he got it down there quicker than we did. He had to pedal it to get rid of the shake. So did I, but I tried short-shifting first. It didn’t make the shake go away, so I pedaled it, and he just drove away from me.” Whiteley stayed on the throttle until there was no catching Gordon and finally clicked it off for a 6.18 at 234 mph.