2015 Northwest Nationals Top Alcohol Funny Car champion Annie Whiteley’s shot at a second Seattle title this year unraveled early when she was sidelined in a first-round loss to 2001 event winner Doug Gordon. She may have qualified No. 1 and lost to the slowest qualifier in the field, but Gordon, like Whiteley a perennial championship contender, can never be considered an upset first-round winner, no matter where he qualifies or who’s in the opposite lane.
If anything, it was more of a 50/50 proposition. “If you qualify No. 1, Doug Gordon is not who you ever expect to run first round,” said Whiteley, who entered eliminations ranked No. 1 for the second time in a row and the fourth time in 10 starts this year. “I mean, who’d ever think he’d be 12th in a 12-car field?” When the Tree flashed green, Whiteley’s YNot/J&A Service Camaro blew the tires off at the hit but not because the team overreacted to the tougher-than-anticipated opening round opponent and had her car too hopped up. Seeded No. 1 with a 5.47 at more than 271 mph (low E.T. and top speed of the entire event until Gordon ran one-thousandth of a second quicker and 0.28 MPH faster in the following round), Whiteley pedaled to a 6.73/194 that fell short of Gordon’s backpedaling 6.34 at 265 mph. It was her only first-round loss all year.
“No way we thought it was going to go up in smoke there,” said Whiteley, who, despite the aggravating setback is still in position for another Top 5. “We backed it down for that run – with the hotter conditions we would have no matter who we were racing. [Crew chief] Mike [Strasburg] richened the barrel valve and lowered the launch RPM 400 RPM. What else are you going to do? It was totally backed off and still it didn’t go anywhere. A 1.13 60-foot time?’ It’s tough. You know they struggled in qualifying, but you know they’re going to figure it out – you just don’t know when. When he won with a 6.30-something, I think we were more just bummed than disgusted or mad.”