At the site of her first career NHRA national event title in 2014, Annie Whiteley drove to the semifinals of the Allstars race and the quarterfinals of the Route 66 Nationals. At Route 66 Raceway just outside Chicago, Whiteley qualified No. 3 with a blistering 5.49 and never ran slower than a 5.52 in eliminations for either race, moving to within two rounds of the Top 10 in the national standings despite having run fewer races than most of her competitors.

Whiteley’s Mike Strasburg-tuned J&A Service/YNot Racing Camaro opened with a solid 5.63 at 263 mph in the first qualifying session and got only stronger from there, picking up to a 5.57 at 266 for the provisional No. 4 position in the late Friday session and ultimately to a 5.49 at 267 mph early Saturday for the No. 3 spot on the final grid.

That 5.49 couldn’t have come at a better time – the final qualifying session for the Route 66 Nationals was actually the first round of the prestigious Jegs Allstars race, which pits the top two drivers from each of NHRA’s four geographic regions against each other on an eight-car ladder comprised of the best of the best.

The 5.49 wiped out East Coast contender Dan Pomponio’s distant 5.79, and an equally outstanding 5.52 at 267 mph in the Allstars semifinals left her just short of a 5.50-flat at 270 mph by Shane Westerfield, who went on to sweep both the Allstars and the Route 66 Nationals.

Whiteley stomped former national event champion Ulf Leanders of Sweden in the first round of the Route 66 Nationals with another 5.49 but came out on the wrong end of a tight race to Doug Gordon in the quarterfinals, 5.53 to 5.50. Next up is the first of two regionals at Woodburn Dragstrip, just outside Portland, Ore., where last year Whiteley won once and was runner-up at the other one.