In her first outing of the 2017 season (but not her car’s first), perennial championship contender Annie Whiteley was unceremoniously upset in the first round of Top Alcohol Funny Car eliminations by veteran Kris Hool after qualifying way up in the No. 2 spot.

At the Eastern Regional in Gainesville, Fla., one week before she would win the prestigious Gatornationals at the same facility, Whiteley’s J&A Service/YNot Racing Camaro inexplicably blew the tires off in low gear, costing her the race. “We have no idea why,” she said. “It was running perfect in qualifying, then in the first round, ‘poof‘ – up in smoke.”

Until that point, Whiteley was perfectly positioned for another win. Qualified No. 2, behind only Sweden’s Ulf Leanders, she ran an outstanding 5.502, missing the .40s by a mere three-thousandths of a second. Weeks earlier in mineshaft conditions at the Western Regional event in Phoenix, substitute driver Greg Hunter reestablished his career best seemingly every time down the track in the YNot Camaro with one solid run after another, including his first 5.40s.

“We got back to the pits after first round, and Mike and the guys were all scratching their heads,” Whiteley said of crew chief Mike Strasburg, a former national event champion in Top Alcohol Dragster. “There was no way they were trying to do anything except what they’d already been doing. That’s OK, though – that’s why they have the next race, right?”