With another final-round performance – her third in four starts – Annie Whiteley is back in the Top 5 in the national Top Alcohol Funny Car standings. It wasn’t just her third runner-up in her past four appearances this season – it was also her third runner-up in four career appearances at the prestigious U.S. Nationals. “I’m getting a little tired of this,” she joked. “I guess it just means we’ll have to come back and try it again next year.”
In her entire NHRA career, Whitely has only not been in the final round at the “Big Go” once, in 2014, which, not coincidentally, was also the only time she ever didn’t make the final Top 10. She has one of the better win-loss records in U.S. Nationals history – an enviable 9-4 (.692) – but no hardware to show for it.
Whiteley’s J&A Service/YNot team charged into the early qualifying lead with an off-the-trailer 5.52 at 267 mph and a 5.47 at nearly 268 for both low e.t. and top speed of the meet at the time. She was more than ready for eliminations with a consistent 5.52 in the third qualifying session and an up-in-smoke 28-second pass in last-shot qualifying when she was already second on the qualifying grid and there was no point in shooting for anything but No. 1.
With a steady 5.51/268 and a .043 light, Whiteley trounced newcomer Chris King, who got in as an alternate for the second time in his three-race career and went down with a fine 5.63/255, the best run of his career. Houston winner Steve Gasparrelli was the next to go. Whiteley had an even better .042 reaction time and advanced easily with a 5.55/267. She took out upstart Bryan Brown in the semifinals, 5.60 to 5.99, but lost traction immediately in the final against Jonnie Lindberg, who won the biggest prize in drag racing with just a 5.67.
“He had to pedal it, too,” said Whiteley, who coasted across the finish line with a 10.21 at 92 mph. “It probably looks like we went for it and got after it too much because it was the final or something, but the guys didn’t hop the car up at all. They actually backed it down a little knowing that we were going to be in the right lane.”
Overdue, Whiteley and the YNot team head into Woodburn, Ore., where she always performs well, including a win and three final-round appearances in her last three trips there.