Annie Whiteley’s march to her first Top Alcohol Funny Car championship continued at Woodburn, where she turned in yet another final-round performance, her seventh already this season. The only problem: with two wins and a runner-up already in regional competition, where only your best three finishes count toward your national points total, her lead would increase only with a win. Qualifying No. 1 and running low e.t. of all three rounds didn’t earn her a single point because she didn’t win the final.
Veteran Steve Gasparrelli, who surprisingly hadn’t won a round all year, came to life at the suburban Portland, Ore., facility for his first victory since he won this race in 2013, edging Whiteley by a few feet in the final, 5.63 to 5.60, and snapping her Woodburn win streak at five rounds. The margin of victory was just 15-thousandths of a second.
Whiteley, who ruled the first regional in Woodburn this year with both ends of the track record and low e.t. and top speed of all three rounds of eliminations, again qualified No. 1, this time with a track-record 5.53 at 265.40 mph. She dispatched veteran Randy Parker in the first round with a solid 5.61/262 and took out Topeka winner Brian Hough in a great semifinal race, leaving first and outrunning Hough’s otherwise fine 5.61/256 with low e.t. of all of eliminations, a 5.56 at 263 mph.
Another 5.56 would’ve done the trick in the final, but Whiteley’s YNot Racing/J&A Service entry slipped to a 5.60, which left her just short of Gasparrelli’s 5.63 and slightly quicker reaction time.
The final-round appearance may not have helped Whiteley in the national championship race, but it solidified her hold on the Western Region title. She now holds a commanding 95-point lead on Doug Gordon with one race left, at the Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, which she has owned throughout her entire career, including a sweep of both the national and regional events there earlier this season.