Until the car inexplicably went up in smoke in the semifinals, Annie Whiteley utterly dominated Top Alcohol Funny Car at the SummitRacing.com Nationals in Norwalk, Ohio. She ran not just low e.t. of the meet, but low e.t. of all three qualifying sessions and each of the first two rounds of eliminations. Her worst run of the entire event to that point, an off-the-trailer 5.57, was better than any other driver’s best run.
“I have no idea why it went up in smoke that time,” said Whiteley of her J&A Service/YNot Racing Camaro. “The car was set up just about the same and everything had been going perfectly from the time we got there.”
Whiteley was the only driver in the 5.50s in Friday’s first qualifying session with a 5.579 at 264.96. She followed with a 5.570 later that afternoon, then lowered the boom in last-shot qualifying Saturday with a 5.531 at 265.06 mph, putting more than a half a tenth on the No. 2 qualifier, Sweden’s Ulf Leanders.
The bludgeoning continued in eliminations when Whiteley left on John Headley in the first round and unloaded a consistent 5.55 at the exact same speed at which she’d already established top speed of the meet to that point: 265.06 mph. The car ran even better in the quarterfinals against 2013 Norwalk winner Kris Hool, but that one could have ended in disaster.
For the first time in memory, and for no known reason, the Tree took about twice as long to come down as it normally does, affecting both drivers’ concentration – it was so long that NHRA Official Starter Mark Lyle threw his hands up in the air. Hool was unable to hold his car on the starting line and rolled through the beams for an instant disqualification, but Whiteley hung on, left at exactly the right rpm, and laid down low e.t. of eliminations, 5.553, and a track-record speed of 266.16 mph.
“I didn’t think that Tree was ever going to come on,” she said. “It gets you completely out of your normal groove, but I waited for it.” In the semi’s, Whiteley smoked the tires like a fuel car right off the starting line and could only watch as D.J. Cox scooped up the win with a 5.74 – about two-tenths slower than she’d been running all weekend.
Norwalk was just the first of back-to-back-to-back races for the YNot Racing/J&A Service team. This weekend is the Route 66 Nationals in Chicago, where in 2013 Whiteley picked up the first national event victory of her career, and the following weekend the team will be all the way across the country in Woodburn, Ore., for the fourth race of the seven-race Western Region schedule.