Perennial Top Alcohol Funny Car contender Annie Whiteley, who won Denver in 2018 and was runner-up in 2014, 2015, and last year, suffered a rare middle-round loss at her home track, one-of-a-kind Bandimere Speedway in the Rocky Mountain foothills just west of Denver. The many-time national event champion and current national speed record holder qualified high, as usual, but came up just short of yet another final-round appearance.
Whiteley’s J&A Service/YNot team, based just four hours from Bandimere in scenic Grand Junction, Colo., began eliminations from the fast half of the field, as always, No. 1 for the third time in four starts this year with an aggregate best of 5.734 at 258.91 mph. Pole qualifier for the fourth time in her career on the mountain, she actually got the top spot by less than a thousandth of a second by virtue of winning the best-speed tiebreaker over eventual winner Doug Gordon, who also ran a 5.734, by 5 mph – 258.91 mph to 253.90.
Crew chief Mike Strasburg, from neighboring Utah, cooked up a high-altitude combination for the first round of eliminations perfect for the unique conditions all mile-high racers face. Whiteley reeled off another winning run, a 5.73/257, but a similar 5.74/256 in the semifinals left her just short. Torque converter driver Bill Bernard got off the starting line a little quicker for a 5.75/248 holeshot win. From here, Jim and Annie Whiteley’s YNot team heads into an uncertain future – who knows when COVID-19 restrictions will permit another race? – with a win and three semifinals finishes on its 2020 score card.