After winning two of her three previous starts and three races overall this season, Annie Whiteley was upset in the first round of the NHRA Nationals in tiny Norwalk, Ohio. As in her only other first-round loss all year, at Topeka, rain played havoc with the schedule, in this case reducing qualifying to a single session. She and other Top Alcohol Funny Car drivers couldn’t have known it at the time, but their opening qualifying runs Friday afternoon would be the only ones they’d get. She charged off the line and sped to a 5.57 at just short of 270 mph for the No. 2 spot on the grid, her third No. 2 in the past four races after opening the season with five No. 1s in a row.
That set up a first-round match with the No. 15 qualifier – only this time, No. 15 wasn’t the normal second-slowest car in the field; it was Chip Beverett and his 5.40-capable Camaro. Beverett may have run just a 5.84 on his lone qualifying attempt, but he picked up three-tenths of a second to a 5.54 in the first round that edged the YNot driver’s 5.52 at 270.64 mph (top speed of the meet).
“The car started creeping on me at the starting line,” said Whiteley, who’s off until the Northwest Nationals in Seattle (Aug. 3-5). “When I brought the motor up, it kind of staged itself. That just kills your concentration – you’re going back down on the pedal, and, naturally, that’s right when the Tree comes on so you’re late.”