Running better than she ever has – including four straight runs in the mid- to low-5.40s – defending Northwest Nationals champ Annie Whiteley reached the semifinals and continued her long climb back up the national Top Alcohol Funny Car standings.

In last-shot qualifying, the J&A Service YNot Racing team, just No. 7 in the field at the time with a usually great but suddenly ordinary 5.53, unloaded their all-time-best, 5.42, one of the greatest runs in class history, for the No. 1 spot. The speed, 271.13 mph was also a career best, and the 5.42 was good for not just low e.t. of the meet but also a new track E.T. record.

“I had no idea that it was a .42, but I could tell it was a good one just by how early the shift-light came on in both gears,” Whiteley said. “When I got out of the car down at the top end, it seemed like Funny Car driver that pulled off the end of the track had just set a career-best. It was ‘Candy Land’ for everybody. The air was really, really good and the track was perfect.

It took an unbelievable 5.51 to make the fast half of the field, and every car but one was at least in the mid-5.50s. Awarded a first-round bye run for being the No. 1 qualifier in a field with an odd number of cars, Whiteley ran a 5.45 – one of three mid-5.40s in eliminations – that would’ve crushed whatever hapless No. 16 qualifier had pulled into opposite lane had there been a full field.

Pitted against three-time Seattle winner Brian Hough in the quarterfinals, Whiteley ran a 5.46 to trounce Hough’s otherwise excellent 5.49 in the kind of race that typified the entire event. Another 5.45 in the semifinals, one of the last pairs completed before the skies finally opened for good and washed out the remainder of the event, wasn’t quite enough. The J&A/YNot team came out on the wrong side of a race nobody deserved to lose when opponent Nick Januik matched his career-best with an identical 5.45 and punctuated it with a .016 light.

“It’s too bad,” said Whiteley, who’d never lost to Januik before. “He had a .091 and a .092 the two rounds prior, but he pulled it out, so you have to give him credit.” Now seventh in the national standings, with fewer races claimed than nine of the other top 10, Whiteley and crew head to Brainerd, Minn, where in her rookie year she reached her first national event final.