Jim Whiteley’s never feared any driver, but of all the ones he could’ve faced in his first official round in Top Alcohol Funny Car, he drew the only one he didn’t want to race: his wife. Jim, who’s won multiple national events in a Pro Mod and multiple national championships in a Top Alcohol Dragster, prevailed. Reluctantly.

“I don’t want to beat her,” he said of wife Annie Whiteley before they lined up for the first round of the Central Regional at the Texas Motorplex in Ennis, Texas. “I don’t even want us to race each other.”

“I do,” Annie said. “I want to beat him.” She almost did. Driving the J&A Service/YNot Racing Yenko blue Camaro, she had the upper hand going in, qualifying third in a very tough eight-car field with a 5.53 at 269.36 mph (top speed of the event). Jim, who’d barely made a full quarter-mile in a Funny Car before this race, wasn’t far behind with a 5.60/258.68, good for the No. 6 spot on the ladder. He actually tied Bryan Brown right down to the thousandth of a second for the No. 5 spot, 5.607 to 5.607, but Brown won the tiebreaker with a slightly better speed, 259 mph to his 258.

Annie got off the starting line first but ran into tire-shake in low gear and Jim, driving an identical mount (one of her old cars), shot into a lead he would never relinquish. Annie continued to reel him in the length of the quarter-mile, but the lost momentum was too great to overcome and he advanced, 5.59/257 to 5.65/262.

“I kept waiting for her to come around me,” said Jim, who fell in the following round to Kyle Smith, who’d won the Funny Car Chaos event here over fuel Funny Car star Del Worsham. “I peeked over there, and she never came by. I didn’t really want to win, but I wasn’t going to just give it to her. Annie would never want that anyway.”