Starting at a track she’d never been to in her life and finishing a month later 800 miles away at a facility at which she’d never not made the final round, Annie Whiteley turned in her finest performance to date in Midwest Drag Racing Series competition, trailering some of the greatest Alcohol Funny Car racers ever along the way.
Originally scheduled for Sept. 11-12 at U.S. 131 Dragway, the completely rebuilt facility in Martin, Mich., has always been fast, dating back the Popular Hot Rodding Championships in the ’70s, the most prestigious race that wasn’t an NHRA, AHRA, or IHRA national event. Whiteley qualified with a 3.71 (eighth-mile) at the outrageously fast speed of 215 mph, and in the first round dropped the most feared driver in Top Alcohol Funny Car today, Sean Bellemeur. Then it rained. And rained. And kept right on raining until series founder Keith Haney was forced to move the remainder of eliminations to MWDRS’ home base, Tulsa Raceway Park, for double points at the season finale.
At Tulsa, the YNot/J&A team picked up right where it left off in Michigan, taking out another two-time NHRA world champ, Jonnie Lindberg, to make a fourth straight final at the Oklahoma track. The Swedish driver red-lighted, invalidating a 3.675 at 212.43 mph, but Whiteley had him all the way with a nice .054 reaction time and a quicker 3.671 at 211.59.
In the final against perennial contender Chris Marshall, Whiteley got off the mark first with a clutch .023 reaction time and posted an E.T almost identical to her winning semifinal time, a 3.68 at 211 mph. But with a quicker 3.64/210, Marshall ran her down by 19-thousandths of a second to win $15,000 – the same winner’s purse Top Fuel and Funny Car drivers are racing for at NHRA national events for the rest of the year.
“I hated to lose, but we still had fun,” Whiteley said. “I really like this Midwest Drag Racing Series deal. Haney’s a racer. He’s not pocketing all this money. There’s a plan. They’re happy you’re here, and if Super Pro loses a session because of the weather, the Funny Cars do, too. It doesn’t matter who you are – everybody’s equal, nobody is better than anybody else.”