Hot off a convincing victory at the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals at the Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last week, Annie Whiteley continued her mastery of the sprawling desert facility with her second straight and sixth career Vegas title.
For her third triumph at the West Regional, which she also won in 2012 (in just the fourth race of her Top Alcohol Funny Car career) and again in 2013, Whiteley wheeled the J&A Service/YNot Racing Camaro to a final-round win over neighbor and friend Terry Ruckman, whom she defeated in the national event semifinals seven days earlier. Whiteley charged to a third straight run in the 5.60s at more than 260 mph, a 5.66 at 260.11, to score easily while Ruckman lost traction and coasted to a 7.18 at just 139.
After qualifying No. 2 behind John Lombardo with a 5.62/262.23, Whiteley stopped Doug Gordon in the first round of eliminations in a rematch of the SummitRacing.com Nationals final, 5.64/261 to 5.78/256. Then came the race that no one who saw it will ever forget.
While Whiteley was speeding to a consistent 5.64 and another Vegas final, Payne’s car got completely sideways in the first 50 feet, slammed into the Christmas Tree, flipped on its side, pitched the body off the chassis, and pointed itself back toward the starting line before the veteran driver was able to shut it off and avert further disaster.
With her second win in just three starts this season, Whiteley has shot all the way up to third in the national Top Alcohol Funny Car standings, behind only Jonnie Lindberg and Brian Hough. She’ll go for her eighth round-win and third event title in a row this weekend at the Spring Nationals in Houston, where last year she was runner-up.