The last time a cancelled Mid-West Drag Racing Series race was contested at another venue (earlier this season when Memphis was moved to Tulsa), Annie Whiteley emerged victorious. This time, not so much – but she didn’t miss by much.
Whiteley, who entered the rescheduled Great Bend Nationals atop the Funny Car rankings, made the final but actually lost ground in the standings because the only driver ahead of her was the one who took her out: longtime nemesis Chris Marshall. The 10-year pro, who’d shut off to a 5.76 at 82 mph on her lone qualifying attempt back in Kansas, which was called off after Ronnie Hobbs’ fatal crash took out the clocks, led Marshall by a single point when they passed through the gates at Tulsa Raceway Park.
With an outstanding 3.636 at 213.27 mph in the first round, Whiteley trounced friend Steve Macklyn, who blatantly fouled and coasted to a 9.25 at 48 mph, completing an odd pattern: for perhaps the first time ever, every single race in a round of Top Alcohol Funny Car eliminations was decided on a red-light.
Bryan Brown’s near miss (-.006) invalidated a 3.68/206, advancing Annie’s husband, Jim, who ran a similar 3.67/210 in what otherwise would have been the best race of the round. Then Colorado’s Bill Bernard, using a clutch instead of the torque converter he has for years, threw away any shot he had of upsetting Marshall’s 3.57/314 low E.T./top speed blast with a -.107 bulb.
After Marshall clocked a 3.64/212 on a single, Jim and Annie faced off, as they seem to every weekend, in the other semifinal matchup. Annie got the best of their latest head-to-head clash in a great race after Jim moved first. Both were more than on time (Jim with a .041 reaction time, Annie a .052), but Jim’s 3.68/209 wasn’t enough when she duplicated her first-round time almost to the thousand of a second for a 3.635/213 win.
Pressing to dip into the 3.50s in the final, Annie lost traction, coasting to a disappointing 8.24 at 51 mph. It was particularly exasperating because another low .60 might just have been enough to win – Marshall slowed to his worst run of eliminations, a 3.64 at 212 mph, but still won the race and passed her for the points lead.