At the West Region opener at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, Top Alcohol Funny Car star Annie Whiteley had to dodge one bullet after another in her brand-new YNot Racing/J&A Service Camaro.

On Whiteley’s first qualifying attempt, opponent Terry Ruckman drifted over the centerline, sending the timing-block cones into the air and raining debris in her lane. “Terry’s a friend and from Grand Junction like us, so of course we had to give him a little grief about it the rest of the weekend,” she said with a laugh. Startled by the flying cone fragments, Whiteley lifted, coasted across the finish line, and still clocked a 6.30 at 179 mph that was fast enough to get in the field.

In the only other session, Whiteley again had no choice but to lift. “That time it wasn’t cones coming at me – it was a whole car,” she said. “We were almost starting to wonder if there was a magnet somewhere on the car that was pulling other cars into my lane.” Many-time national event winner Larry Miner, at the wheel of friend Steve Gasparrelli’s car, got into her lane when, after backpedaling out of shake, his car hooked up, carried the front end, and shot across the centerline.

First-round opponent Mike Doushgounian stayed on his side of the track, but Whiteley had to abort another run when she went up in smoke right off the line. “We’re still kind of dumbfounded about that one,” she said. “It never should have smoked the tires like that, but that’s what happens when everything’s new – new car, new tire, and a completely different kind of clutch. We just have to figure out what the new car wants, and we will in testing before our next race, at Vegas.”

The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway has always been Whiteley’s best track on the NHRA circuit: she’s won four times, sweeping the spring and fall regionals there in both 2012 and 2013.