At Woodburn Dragstrip just outside Portland, Annie Whiteley dominated one of the toughest regional events of the season to take over first place in the Top Alcohol Funny Car national standings. “This is the first time I’ve ever been number one,” said Whiteley, who scored for the third time in six final-round appearances already this season. “I’ve been as high as second, early in the season a couple years ago, but I have to say this feels pretty great.”
It was truly one of the great performances of her career, a clean sweep: She qualified No. 1, obliterated both ends of the track record, and set low e.t. and top speed of all three rounds of eliminations.
After traveling almost 2500 miles from Chicago, where Whiteley was runner-up at the Jegs Allstars, the J&A Service/YNot team topped all qualifiers for the fifth race in a row – Denver, Norwalk, the Allstars race, Chicago, and now Woodburn. Her outstanding 5.56 at 266.42 mph held up for low e.t. and top speed of the entire event and was backed up by a pair of 5.64s in the other two qualifying sessions, making her a prohibitive favorite going into eliminations. (With a 5.59 for No. 2, championship contender Doug Gordon was the only other driver to run in the 5.50s all weekend.)
Whiteley just missed getting back in the .50s in the opening round with a 5.601 that stood as the quickest pass of all of eliminations and was more than enough to eliminate newcomer Chris Marshall, who faded with a 6.14, 224 in the first round of his Top Alcohol Funny Car career. Marshall held down the bump with a 5.75 – quicker than defending event champ Mike Doushgounian and former Woodburn winners Brian Hough and Steve Gasparrelli, who all missed the cut.
In the semifinals, Whiteley’s consistent 5.62 knocked off rival Shane Westerfield, who lost traction on the tricky, slippery surface and slowed to a 10.21. Former national event winner Jirka Kaplan gave Whiteley her toughest race of the weekend in the final, but she drove away from him on the top end with a 5.69 to win it by a car length. “That was actually the worst run we made all weekend,” Whiteley said. “The car was trying to walk all over the track and I had to short-shift just to get it down there. That guy’s always so tough on the lights; I was just glad I never saw him.”