Numerous forces conspired to deplete the car count at the Mid-West Drag Racing Series’ U.S. 131 Nationals: the ongoing war for the 2021 NHRA Top Funny Car championship at Maple Grove between Sean Bellemeur and Doug Gordon for one, and a vital Central Regional in Earlville for another. But what the MWDRS field may have lacked in quantity it more than made up for, as they say, in quality: all three teams in attendance ran 3.60s, and two of them just missed the .50s.

At completely renovated U.S. 131 Dragway, host of the Popular Hot Rodding Championships, the biggest independent Funny Car race of the ’70s and early ’80s, no one was quicker or faster than Annie Whiteley, who reached her second final of 2021. Hunting down her first event title ever in this series, Whiteley, who reached the semi’s at Ferris in her only other MWDRS start this year, came out on the wrong end of a classic final-round matchup with the converter-equipped car of Bill Bernard.

With just three Funny Cars in attendance in tiny Martin, Mich., halfway between Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo, qualifying No. 1 meant a bye to the final, and Whiteley got it by just three-thousandths of a second over No. 2 Chris Marshall, 3.606 to 3.609. In the first round, which, in the unusual three-car format, doubled as the semi’s, Whiteley moved into her first final since the Belle Rose season opener with a smooth 3.69 single and Bernard upset Marshall on a holeshot in the other semi in a great race, 3.67 to 3.65.

Then, in the exciting under-the-lights final, Bernard’s Mustang and Whiteley’s J&A Service/YNot Racing Camaro were locked side by side right to the eighth-mile mark, where Bernard’s 3.670 at 204.17 mph barley held off Whiteley’s fast-closing 3.679 at 211.47. With the victory, Bernard assumed the points lead, but, with three races to go, it’s still a wide-open affair between him, Bellemeur, Whiteley, and Marshall for the 2021 MWDRS Funny Car championship.