At Woodburn Dragstrip just outside Portland, one of her best tracks on the circuit, Annie Whiteley was eliminated in the first round for the first time anywhere in nearly three months. The J&A Service/YNot team landed in Woodburn Alcohol Funny Car finals three times in a row coming into this race, with a win and a runner-up last year and a final-round loss earlier this season by the aggravating margin of just one-thousandth of a second.

This time, despite a getting off the line on time and charging past the 60-foot clocks, Whiteley was upset by No. 8 qualifier Brian Hough’s 5.57, fighting through vicious tire-shake for a disappointing 5.87 loss.

“The car did one of those weird things that makes all the guys stand there scratching their heads when we get back to the pits,” she said. “It spun the tires out past 60 foot, and it never does that. The starting line was super great, and it was a little slow early on that run, then it started shaking further out. If we would’ve had one more qualifying, that never would’ve happened.”

It started raining at 9 a.m. and didn’t stop till 9 p.m., washing out every scheduled qualifying session and generating so much rainfall that the flooded top end couldn’t be cleared for racing until 2 p.m. the following day, which meant just one thing: every tuner’s nightmare – one-shot qualifying. Whiteley and crew chief Mike Strasburg came through with an outstanding 5.53 at more than 268 mph for the No. 1 qualifying spot in the nerve-wracking do-or-die session, Whiteley’s fifth No. 1 in 12 starts this season.