For once, Annie Whiteley was out early at her best track on the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series tour, The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Whiteley, whose J&A Service/YNot Racing Top Alcohol Funny Car crew has landed in the winner’s circle at nearly half the races they’ve ever entered there, inexplicably went up in smoke in the first round and was gone early.
It was the exact opposite of what had been happening all weekend – for everybody. The bump was the quickest in Alcohol Funny Car history – 5.547 seconds – and even the non-qualifiers were thundering, with couple in the 5.50s and almost everybody at least in the .60s. When eliminations commenced Sunday afternoon, more than 70% of the cars that left the starting line weren’t under power by half-track: Six of eight in the first round, three of four in the semifinals, and Brian Hough in the final were idling when they went across the finish line.
“I don’t know what happened to the race track, but it looks like nobody else does either,” said Whiteley, who qualified right near the top, No. 3 with back-to-back 5.50-flats, including one at 270.10 mph, the only run all weekend over the 270-mph mark. With everybody in the low .50s, at least, there were no easy draws in the opening round, but she lined up against the toughest one of all, newly crowned world champ Shane Westerfield, who surprisingly qualified just 6th at this event.
Whiteley got of the line on time with a solid .071 reaction time but was out of the race before she passed the Tree when the car went up in hard smoke. “We have no idea why that happened – especially here,” she said. “Who knows? Maybe it’ll be the opposite at Pomona, where we never seem to do any good, and we’ll win the whole thing.”