Throwing the chutes at nearly 270 mph like she has a million times before, national record holder Annie Whiteley had no idea she was seconds away from a terrifying trip off the end of the track. Whiteley, who narrowly lost the Fallnationals Top Alcohol Funny Car final to Doug Gordon last year, barely lost to him again in 2018, this time in the second round, but another narrow loss was the least of her problems.
The YNot/J&A Service Camaro’s parachutes never blossoming and instead becoming entangled and flailing behind the car as Whiteley careened through the shutdown area and the sand trap grew closer and closer by the second – that was the problem. “I’ve never been through anything like that before,” she said. “The end of that track really comes up at you fast. It’s hard to make yourself let go of the brake handle, but that’s what you have to do or the brakes will lock up and the car will just start bouncing.”
The onboard data recorder revealed just how fast Whiteley was still going when she first went for the brakes: 250 mph. “I didn’t know if I won or lost; I just knew I didn’t want to get into the sand and tear up the car,” said Whiteley, who crossed the finish line at 269 mph just 34-thousandths of a second behind Gordon. “At some point I knew I was going into the sand, and I just wanted to get stopped before I hit the net, but I was still going so fast when I hit the sand there was no way I was going to miss it.”
“When I saw her come out of the [roof] hatch, I knew she was OK,” a relieved Jim Whiteley said. “The body is junk and the chassis is going to have to be front-halved, but most of the running gear can be swapped straight into the new car and we should be ready by the first Vegas race [Oct. 26-28].” Annie, currently third in the NHRA national standings and clearly in line for yet another Top 5 finish, will wrap up the season at the Toyota Nationals in Las Vegas, the Las Vegas regional a week later, and the NHRA Finals in Pomona, Calif., the week after that.