Just days after a frustrating outing at the same track that resulted in only the second DNQ of her career, Annie Whiteley and the J&A Service/ YNot Racing Top Alcohol Funny Car team charged back with a solid outing at the Gatornationals, which both she and son Steven won in 2017. She qualified 4th with a blistering 5.44 at 272 mph and advanced to the quarterfinals only to come out on the wrong end of an instant classic opposite career-long nemesis Doug Gordon, the eventual runner-up.
With a safe but competitive 5.56 at nearly 270 mph off the trailer that positioned her in the top half of the show, Whiteley made sure there’d be no repeat of the embarrassing DNQ she suffered a week earlier at the same facility. No. 4 with the 5.44 entering eliminations, she easily moved on to the quarterfinals when opponent Bryan Brown was unable to make it to the lanes for round one. He qualified in the bottom quarter of the field with a 5.63, and would’ve have had a tough time advancing anyway when she laid down 5.45 at 273 mph on the bye.
In the quarterfinals, crew chief Mike Strasburg dialed up a usually unbeatable 5.45, but Gordon got her again with an even better 5.42. “You run a .45, you think you’d win, but I guess that time it wasn’t enough,” Whiteley said. “We still don’t have this new car figured out. What the old car liked, this one doesn’t. Tire pressure, transmission ratio, all these different things – I don’t know what it is, but this is a different car, and it seems to want something different.”