After breaking through for a long overdue first career victory at her home track in 2018 in the wake of numerous near-misses, championship contender Annie Whiteley just missed another Top Alcohol Funny Car title at Bandimere Speedway this year. At the third event of the six-race NHRA Central Regional season, Whiteley, who scored at the Central opener in Dallas, established low e.t. with a 5.70 in the semifinals but lost to Nick Januik in the final, 5.77 to 5.71.

It was Whiteley’s third final-round appearance in the past five races and her third runner-up since winning the rain-delayed Dallas race. As always, crew chief Mike Strasburg and the reigning Central Region champion YNot/J&A Service team brought a special tune-up to this event crafted just for the mile-high conditions they see nowhere else on tour. “They changed the transmission ratio, changed the compression ratio, even put on special [smaller] tires to deal with the altitude,” she said. “Mike and the guys always have a whole list of things to change for this race, and it all worked – the car ran great.”

Whiteley wound up second in the final qualifying order with a 5.72, just behind No. 1 Shane Westerfield’s 5.71 and just ahead of Januik’s 5.73. Entering eliminations second in the national standings with a commanding points lead in the Central Region, she pounded out a winning 5.82 at 257 mph on a single in opponent Doug Schneider’s absence. In the semifinals opposite Kris Hool’s competitive 5.77/248, she threw down low e.t. and top speed of the meet, a 5.70-flat at 260.26 mph, the only 260-mph run all weekend, to assume the favorite’s role going into the final against Januik, who also won the Las Vegas regional in April.