Annie Whiteley closed out a frustrating season with a frustrating DNQ at the Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals in Pomona, Calif. Experimenting with a completely different style of clutch – the Leanders model that’s sweeping the class – the Grand Junction, Colo., driver had to shut off early on all three qualifying attempts and missed the cut for just the third time in her career. The only other times were at this event in 2012 and last week at the Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
“It was just a bad year,” said Whiteley, who endured a winless season for the first time in her Top Alcohol Funny Car career. “It happens to everybody, and this year, it happened to us.”
Though the forgettable second half of the season was plagued with freak parts failures and occasional traction problems, the first half was a typical J&A/YNot Racing season. Whiteley was the No. 1 qualifier at four races in a row (Houston, Topeka, Denver, and Tulsa) and advanced to the final round at three of them – Houston, Denver, and Tulsa.
She set low e.t. of the meet four times – at Houston, Topeka, Denver, and Brainerd, where she also qualified in the top spot – and set top speed in Denver (249.58 mph). Whiteley, who had yet to finish outside the Top 5 in her alcohol career until 2014, wound up this season 14th in the national standings and fifth in the Central region with a decent 9-13 win-loss record and three final-round appearances.