Hot off a victory in Louisiana in her only previous 2018 appearance, Annie Whiteley laid down a 5.464 at 274 mph – the seventh-fastest run in in the long history of Top Alcohol Funny Car – in the first of two qualifying sessions and followed with an unbelievable 275.34-mph blast to reset the national speed record she already had. Last year in the Fall Nationals final against Doug Gordon, in the quickest side-by-side race in class history (5.37-5.38), Whiteley had become the first (and still the only) driver ever to reach 275 mph with a historic 275.00-mph charge.
With a 5.42 E.T. on that landmark run, Whiteley qualified No. 1, and in the first round against two-time regional event finalist Aryan Rochon, her YNot team advanced easily with a steady 5.47 at 271.46. She was traveling nearly 214 mph at half-track, but anything would have done – Rochon was out of it early and shut down to a 10.69 at just 78 mph. In the semifinals, when another 5.46, 5.42, 5.47, or anything close to any other run she’d made all weekend would have been enough, she was forced to pedal and lost to Kris Hool, who’d finished second to her a week earlier in a nerve-racking final in Belle Rose, La.
Whiteley made only run she made all weekend that wouldn’t have won, and Hool made only run he’d make all weekend that wouldn’t have lost. She recovered to record a still-good 5.51, again at more than 270 mph, closing in on Hool’s car every foot of the course beyond half-track, but he had just enough of a lead to hold her off. The margin of victory: 11-thousandths of a second.
“Of all the times for the car to do that,” Whiteley said. “Any other run … it gets a little old after a while. If we could’ve just run a little better or I could’ve cut a little better light, we could’ve been in another final, but the car had to go and do that right then. It was perfect up till then. Testing, qualifying, eliminations – the car’s been just about perfect all year.”