The once-friendly confines of The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway were anything but this year for Annie Whiteley, who lost the absolute last way she or any driver would ever want to: on a holeshot. This one was particularly frustrating – the dreaded “double holeshot.”
Either of her Saturday qualifying runs would have been more than enough to run down Randy Parker and Jake Guadagnolo in the first round of eliminations, and any other light she had all weekend would have eliminated the need for any come-from-behind heroics in the first place. It wasn’t that the sometimes-confusing four-at-a-time format at NHRA’s Four-Wide Las Vegas Nationals confounded Whiteley, nor were there any staging shenanigans on the part of her opponents.
“I don’t know what the hell it was,” Whiteley said. “Nobody really did anything to mess me up, and it wasn’t a long Tree or a short Tree or anything like that. My light really didn’t feel that bad – definitely not a .180-something. I knew it wasn’t a .020 or .030, but I damn sure didn’t think it was over .100.” But a .180 came up on the reaction timers nonetheless, leaving Whiteley’s J&A Service/YNot Racing Camaro – recently redubbed “Shattered Glass” in honor of her late father Don, who loved the Brad Paisley hit song of that name – third in a three-car race.
She blew the tires off Friday morning on her first of four qualifying attempts – one in each lane. Sneaking up on the combination from the back side after that, crew chief Mike Strasburg delivered a decent 5.60-flat at 263 mph Friday afternoon and picked up from there, to a 5.56/262 and a 5.53/264 on Saturday that left the team a solid fourth in the final order.
In the first round, Whiteley shook the tires off the line, short-shifted to get out of it, and set sail after Parker, who hadn’t gotten down the track all weekend, and Guadagnolo, who was on the same track as her, just out the side window to her right the whole way down. “I knew I wasn’t going to catch him,” she said, “but I hoped maybe Parker was somewhere behind me on the other track. What a crappy end to a crappy weekend. Losing on a holeshot is even worse than red-lighting. When you red-light, it’s almost like, ‘Well, at least I tried.’ “