Clearly distracted by real-life issues bigger than anything that could transpire on a drag strip, Annie Whiteley trudged through a forgettable weekend in Woodburn, Ore., bowing out in the first round of both events of a double regional. “I don’t know what the heck was going on this weekend,” she said. “And right now, I don’t really care. I had a lot of things on my mind, things a lot more important than how I staged the car.”
The Top Alcohol Funny Car field at Woodburn Dragstrip, just south of Portland, was chock full of truly accomplished drivers: four of the six are past national event champions, and it wouldn’t have been an upset no matter who won. All six ran low- to mid-5.60s in qualifying, from the .60-flat of No. 1 Brian Hough, tuned by 2015-16 world champion Jonnie Lindberg, to the 5.65 of veteran Bret Williamson, who’s been building and driving Funny Cars since the 1980s.
Whiteley’s J&A Service/YNot Racing “Shattered Glass” Camaro began eliminations right from the middle of the field with a 5.64 that placed her fourth on the grid and a speed of 264.31 mph – top speed of the event through three qualifying sessions. Racing Jake Guadagnolo, who won the Northwest Nationals at Seattle last year, at the track operated by the family of her pseudo-teammate, five-time Top Alcohol Dragster world champ Joey Severance, Whiteley came out on the wrong end of an aggravating first-round race.
Guadagnolo, an accomplished bracket racer with tons of trans-brake experience, got off the button for a typically quick .023 reaction time and an early lead. Whiteley chased him down with top speed of the meet by a mile and an E.T. quick enough to have landed her No. 2 in the field had she run it in qualifying, but it was to no avail. His 5.63 at 261.55 mph in the Miner Bros. machine run by second-generation racer Greg Miner held off her slightly quicker 5.61 at a booming 266.74 mph.
“I double-bulbed when I rolled up there,” she said. “I never do that. Both bulbs came on at the same time, and I thought, ‘What the hell are you thinking?’ I didn’t mean to do it, but by then there was nothing I could do about it.”