All Annie Whiteley did at the Southeast Regional in Gainesville, Fla., days after winning the 2020 season-opener in Belle Rose, La., was make the fastest Top Alcohol Funny Car run of all time: 276.18 mph. “I had no idea it was that fast,” she said of what’s basically a brand-new car. “It’s kind of picky, actually, almost like the chassis is too stiff. Sometimes it doesn’t want to respond, but it sure did that time.”
After qualifying No. 1 by more than half a tenth with the only run in the 5.30s all weekend, a 5.39 at 274.66 mph (top speed by nearly 5 mph at that point), the new pipe answered crew chief Mike Strasburg’s calls with the first 276+ mph run in NHRA history. More than half of the qualifiers found the 5.40s, but the bump ended up being just a 5.89 by Josh Haskett, who wasn’t around when eliminations got under way.
Instead of Haskett in the opening round, Whiteley, who has perfected the art of drawing inordinately tough first-round opponents despite almost always qualifying near the top, got alternate Ulf Leanders, one of the few Top Alcohol Funny Car racers to ever run in the 5.30s. She upped the NHRA national speed record to 276.18 mph on a 5.43 while the dangerous Leanders fell back with a harmless 6.85.
For the YNot team, already owners of seven of the 10 fastest Top Alcohol Funny Car speeds ever, it all came to crashing down in the semifinals when their temperamental new machine went up in smoke instantly opposite perennial bridesmaid Doug Gordon, who went on to a long-overdue final-round win over Bellemeur. Whiteley may not have left with a second straight victory to start the ’20s, but she did walk away with the pole, low e.t. by a mile, and the fastest speed of all time.