After years on the cusp of victory at her adopted home track, Top Alcohol Funny Car star Annie Whiteley went the distance at Bandimere Speedway, the Denver-area track husband Jim owned for his entire his career. Annie, who had a runner-up, two semifinal finishes, and two first-round losses at Bandimere, won the 2018 final by the just about closest possible margin over former Indy Comp winner Jirka Kaplan: 3-thousandths of a second.

“It feels so good to finally win here,” Annie said. “Jim just won here every time. I couldn’t even tell you how many times he won [six in a row – the last six years he competed in Top Alcohol Dragster: 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013]. It was nice to finally win after getting so close so many times.”

Whiteley, who scored earlier this year at the Belle Rose, La., regional and the 4-Wide Nationals in Charlotte, started from the No. 2 qualifying position behind two-time championship runner-up John Lombardo, 5.74 to 5.78. Kaplan strapped a .007 to .140 holeshot on Lombardo in the first round to eliminate the top qualifier, 5.86 to 5.85, and singled in the semifinals. Whiteley had to do it the hard way and win all three rounds head-to-head to take home the title. She matched her No. 2 qualifying time right to the thousandth of a second in a 5.785 first-round decision over Steve Macklyn, who red-lighted, and topped perennial championship contender Jay Payne in the semifinals, 5.91 to a shutoff 6.58.

In the final, Whiteley wheeled her YNot/J&A Service Camaro to her quickest and fastest run of the weekend, 5.76/255, to hold off Kaplan, who also made his quickest and fastest lap of the weekend, by literally a foot. “I never saw him,” she said. “I just stared straight ahead like I always do and never noticed the win-light come on. After losing in every other round, most of them a couple times, this is just a great feeling.”