After plowing through the first third of the season with one late-round finish after another and winning the season opener in Belle Rose, La., Annie Whiteley and the YNot Top Alcohol Funny Car team hit their first bump in their road at the Heartland Nationals in Topeka, Kan. Whiteley, who had reached at least the semifinals of every race all year, was unceremoniously dumped in the first round of eliminations by Texas upstart Bryan Brown, who had never beaten her before.

Whiteley shut off on her first qualifying attempt, coasting to a 7.62 at just 126 mph, and rebounded with a cautious 5.60 at 265 mph on her only other attempt at the rain-plagued event, which put her No. 3 at the time and was good for No. 5 when the last car cleared the traps. Under threatening skies in the first round, with storm clouds gathering and rain clearly on the way, she left with a competitive .074 reaction time, but her best lap of the weekend, 5.59, was edged out by Brown’s virtually identical 5.58. As soon as they exited the track, the skies opened and racing was halted for nearly an hour.

“Not much you can do about a deal like that,” Whiteley stoically said later in the pits. “You can’t shoot for the 5.40s and risk smoking the tires when you have the advantage – you have to just make sure you make it down the track. We did, but not quick enough, I guess. Looking at all the numbers, the guys said there was a lot more left, but what are you going to do? We’ll just try to be better at the next one.”

Next up on the schedule for the YNot/J&A Service Top Alcohol Funny Car team is the Central Regional at Bandimere Speedway just outside Denver, where Whiteley’s husband, Jim, always dominated in Top Alcohol Dragster but where she’s still looking for her first win after one near-miss after another.