From the beginning, Annie Whiteley seemed destined to finish fourth in the 2021 Mid-West Drag Racing Series Funny Car standings. Right in the middle of it race after race but somehow always a half-step behind, she hit Tulsa, her childhood home, dead-set on nabbing that elusive first career MWDRS event title.
It didn’t happen. Bill Bernard arrived with a four-point lead over incoming favorite Sean Bellemeur, who’d earned more points per race than anyone all year but skipped the U.S. 131 Nationals to run the NHRA event at Maple Grove. Whiteley and Chris Marshall were right behind both, but at the conclusion of back-to-back events over three days of the epic Throwdown in T-Town doubleheader, her YNot Racing/J&A Service team was officially out of title contention.
It wasn’t that Whiteley didn’t have an opportunity to stay in the points race or that she just didn’t run hard. She did. The six-time NHRA national event champion qualified fifth for the Thursday/Friday event and powered into the semifinals, where she was upended by eventual winner Bellemeur, 3.72 to a shutoff 9.52. Marshall ran quicker in the final, but Bellemeur, who’s forged a reputation as one of the finest drivers ever to strap into an Alcohol Funny Car, got him on a holeshot.
Marshall then led all qualifiers for the other race with an outstanding 3.60, just ahead of Bellemeur’s 3.62 and Whiteley’s 3.66. He’d go on to claim a crucial final-round win when Bellemeur’s crankshaft snapped in half around the half-track mark, setting in motion one of the more violent explosions in the history of alcohol racing and more or less destroying his whole car. By then, Whiteley had already been eliminated, victimized by second-generation driver Bryan Brown, 3.69/207 to her shutoff 4.20/133.
All in all, the YNot team displayed remarkable consistency throughout the 2021 campaign, scoring 69 points in Ferris, 66 at the rescheduled I-30 race in Tulsa, 69 in Tulsa, 67 in Great Bend, and 70 in Martin, but this 48-point effort knocked them out of the championship. With one race left, the title’s now officially out of reach – a win is worth 110 points, and Whiteley trails Bellemeur by 118.