It won’t count toward the national championship because she’s already run the maximum number of regional events – five – but Annie Whiteley pounded out one good run after another at her favorite track, The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, at the final regional event of the season. As always, it was the toughest regional event of the entire season; 17 cars attempted to qualify for one of just eight spots, and the bump was one of the quickest of all time, 5.63.
Whiteley’s J&A Service/YNot Racing Camaro held down the No. 1 spot in Top Alcohol Funny Car until the final pair of the final session with a 5.49. No. 2 in the field when eliminations began, she ripped of a consistent 5.51 to take out defending event champ Ulf Leanders, then slipped to a tire-shaking 5.79 in the semifinals and fell to friend and Grand Junction, Colo., neighbor Terry Ruckman, the former Division 7 champ.
“It shook pretty hard that time, and there wasn’t much I could do,” Whiteley said. “It didn’t hurt us points-wise, but you never want to lose – ever. It was still a good weekend, though. We learned a lot about running the car in cold conditions, and that’s going to do nothing but help us down the road.”
Now the YNot team’s focus shifts to this weekend’s NHRA Finals in Pomona, Calif. One point out of the lead – 626 to 625 – with one race to go, she’ll overtake Sweden’s Jonnie Lindberg by winning just one round of eliminations. “It’s all right there for us,” she said. “I don’t want to think about points or anything like that. I’m just going to try to make each run like it’s a qualifying run and take it one round at a time. We’ve run good all year. Now we just need to do it one more time.”