Coming off a No. 1 at their last stop, Annie Whiteley and the J&A Service/YNot team qualified just seventh at the NHRA Fall Nationals despite a 5.50 and bowed out with a disappointing first-round loss.

Typically dynamite conditions at the Texas Motorplex meant the entire field was fast, and the bump ended up being the second-quickest in Top Alcohol Funny Car history (5.635), anchored by Bryan Brown, the same driver who was No. 16 at the only faster race, Dallas last year (5.621). Though teams got just two qualifying sessions instead of the usual three, four of them made it into the 5.40s and another three ran 5.50-flats, including Whiteley, who was right behind second-ranked John Lombardo’s 5.506 and third-ranked Doug Gordon’s 5.508 with a 5.509.

For Whiteley, ranked fifth in the national standings before and after this race, a sometimes frustrating season of near-misses and could’ve-beens continued in the first round when she met recent nemesis Steve Gasparrelli. He qualified 10th with a 5.57 but stepped up to a 5.55 to edge Whiteley’s 5.59.

“I short-shifted,” she said. “I have no idea why I did that – sometimes, it just happens. The car wasn’t shaking hard or anything, but in the back of your mind the only thing that’s going get to you down there faster is hitting the next gear and sometimes your thumb just pushes the button. Sometimes you get away with it and sometimes you don’t, and I knew what happened as soon as I did it.”