Annie Whiteley, still the fastest Alcohol Funny Car driver alive – man or woman – with a national-record speed of 276.18 mph, just missed her latest national event victory with a runner-up finish at the Northwest Nationals. At expansive, multipurpose Pacific Raceways, the Grand Junction, Colo., veteran, a winner here in 2015 in her only previous Seattle final-round appearance, was unerringly consistent from start to finish – until the final.

Whiteley, a six-time national event champ, rolled off the trailer Friday afternoon with a 5.56 at 264.80 mph for the early qualifying lead and got only quicker from there, with a 5.51/265.59 that evening to match reigning world champ and No. 1 qualifier Doug Gordon, and a 5.52/264.86 Saturday in last-shot qualifying. “We got better and better all weekend,” she said. “The guys [led by crew chief Mike Strasburg] kept finding a little more each time.”

From the No. 3 spot, behind only Gordon and Mike Doushgounian, the only other driver in the 5.40s (barely, with a 5.499), Whiteley opened eliminations against Alaska’s Ray Martin, who’s driven just about every kind of car legal in NHRA national event competition, including nitro Funny Cars. She left right with him and pulled away to a lopsided 5.52/265 win while Martin got his brains beaten in by tire shake. In the semifinals, her best run of the weekend, a 5.50-flat at 262 mph, would not have been enough to advance opposite Doushgounian’s outstanding 5.46, but he wasted it on a foul start she never noticed.

“I had no clue he red-lighted,” Whiteley said. “I saw him out there and thought, ‘Man, I just got my butt whipped’ because he was way out there. Hearing that he red-lighted was a whole ‘nother adrenaline rush. They tell you, ‘You’re in the final,’ and you’re like, ‘Wait a minute. What? How?’ I couldn’t believe it.”

In the final against Gordon, whom she beat for the 2015 Las Vegas title, she shook the tires and slowed to a coasting 7.37 while he shot ahead for a winning 5.47/268 to bolster his national points lead in his final season as a Top Alcohol Funny Car racer. Despite running just a partial NHRA schedule while concentrating primarily on the Mid-West Drag Racing Series tour, Whiteley is up to eighth in the NHRA national standings.