Sustained by a cadre of family and longtime friends at the Texas Motorplex, where she’s tasted more than her share of success in a distinguished nine-year Top Alcohol Funny Car career, Annie Whiteley absorbed a grating second-round defeat at the 2020 NHRA Fall Nationals. The YNot/J&A Service driver, part of the quickest side-by-side race in Top Alcohol Funny Car history in the 2017 final here, scorched the quarter-mile with a 5.426 at 274.00 mph under the lights Friday night – top speed of the session by nearly 6 mph and 1/250th of second from low E.T. of the entire event.

“I always liked this track,” the onetime Texan said following a booming 5.47 at 272.01 mph (top speed of that session by 2 mph) Saturday in the only other qualifying session under the stilted two-shot pandemic qualifying format. “We usually do pretty well at this race, there are usually a lot of people here, and it’s just always felt like home to me.” Entering eliminations in the No. 2 position, Whiteley, who established top speed here for the third time in the past four years, trounced surprise Winternationals winner Aryan Rochon in the opening round, 5.52/269 to the Florida driver’s distant 5.89/247.

The wheels came off in the quarterfinals when Whiteley, who won the Central Regional here last year with low e.t. and top speed of the meet, was nipped by two-time NHRA national event winner Kris Hool despite running slightly quicker, 5.50/270.27 (top speed of the round) to 5.54/260.91. In the lights the cars were separated by just 14-thousandths of a second, about five feet.

“I think this is the first time I’ve ever pouted after losing a race,” Whiteley said with a laugh. “It sucks. I just didn’t feel right up there. I’ve been holding my foot differently to get a better light, and that time I just didn’t have a good one.”