With a final-four finish at the biggest race of the year, former U.S. Nationals Top Alcohol Dragster champ Jim Whiteley turned in his finest showing to date as an NHRA Top Alcohol Funny Car racer, taking out, of all people, wife Annie Whiteley along the way. Jim, who won the 2013 U.S. Nationals en route to his second straight TA/D championship, made his best run of the year right off the trailer and delivered a steady, consistent performance not unlike his glory days in dragsters with six full pulls in six trips to the line.
Fresh off a St. Louis victory in the eighth-mile Mid-West Drag Racing Series, Jim made his quickest quarter-mile run of 2023, a 5.52 at 262.08 mph, and Annie was right behind him a couple pairs later with a 5.54 at nearly 265 mph in her clutch car. They ran side by side in each of two ensuing qualifying sessions with only Jim making it to 2nd gear under power, but Annie’s Mike Strasburg-tuned “Shattered Glass” machine came back to life when it mattered most, in eliminations.
Annie advanced with a smooth 5.59/262 against the A/Fuel Funny Car of Mick Steele, who made his first start in this class in 25 years, but Jim really had to work for it to get around many-time national event winner DJ Cox. He deftly worked the throttle to maintain control early and moved on with a backpedaling 5.64/256 that cost him lane choice for his highly anticipated quarterfinal matchup with Annie.
She shot off the line with an excellent .045 reaction time in that one, but Jim was already ahead of her with the first of consecutive .00 lights, a perfect .000. “I always do better against him,” said Annie, who developed ignition troubles downtrack. “But a triple-0 light? That’s just mean.” Her clutch light was irrelevant when the ignition cut out at 9,400 rpm in every gear.
“It felt like I hit the rev-limiter,” she said. “I didn’t know exactly what was going on, but I didn’t want to hurt anything and there was no way I was going to catch him, so I shut it off.” She coasted to a not-bad 5.68/236 but was well short of Jim’s 5.59/258.
In the semifinals opposite world champ Doug Gordon, Jim’s second straight .00 came up on the wrong side of perfection, a -.004 red-light that denied him a potential upset win. His Brandon Snider-tuned J&A Service Camaro was within striking distance of Gordon’s vaunted Beta Motorcycles entry, 5.50/266 to 5.57/259, and with anything from .001 to .003 green he’d have won on a holeshot.