Drawn by a potential $20,000 payday – the biggest winner’s purse in the 40-year-history of Top Alcohol Funny Car racing – Annie Whiteley and name drivers from around the country headed to increasingly popular Xtreme Raceway Park for the Xtreme Texas Nationals, the first time Alcohol Funny Cars have ever been part of Keith Haney’s fast-rising Midwest Drag Racing Series.

Whiteley, whose YNot team has reached at least the semifinals at every stop all season, absorbed a dispiriting, uncharacteristic first-round defeat in their first appearance in Ferris, Texas. With $20,000 on the line, it wasn’t a bunch of patsies filling the Xtreme Raceway Park pits. The toughest teams in the country made their way to the underrated eighth-mile facility just north of the Texas Motorplex: besides Whiteley, red-hot 2020 NHRA points leader Doug Gordon and two-time reigning world champ Sean Bellemeur, there was veteran Mark Billington, Texas talents Bryan Brown and Jonathan Johnson, and emerging contender Bob McCosh from Missouri.

Racing under the lights before a packed house, with fans closing in around both cars as they inched toward the beams in the finest match-race tradition, Whiteley lined up opposite Gordon, one of the two toughest possible opponents today (Bellemeur being the other). Whiteley’s beautiful Yenko blue Camaro Funny Car laid down one of the strongest runs of the entire event, a 3.72 at a booming 210.77 mph that would’ve beaten almost just about anyone else. But, just a few feet ahead on her right, Gordon produced an even quicker 3.68 208.72 in his new red Beta Motorcycles colors to advance.

Earlier in the day, way down at the end of the shutdown area, Johnson plowed into the guardrail in Gordon’s lane, destroying one of the best-looking Funny Cars of all time. Gordon managed to avoid him and went on make to the final, where he lost, earning $5,000 – exactly what NHRA national events pay to win – for runner-up honors, while Bellemeur collected the 20 grand, the richest prize in class history, for the Bartone Bros./Hussey team led by all-time-great crew chief Steve Boggs.