As championship scenarios played out all around him, two-time world champion Jim Whiteley unleashed one all-time-best after another at the Texas FallNationals in the finest outing of his NHRA Top Alcohol Funny Car career. He qualified higher than ever before (No. 3) with his best run ever (5.456) and ran better than that one round after another in eliminations, wiping out a past national event champion every time down the track.
Whiteley, who won Dallas in both of his Top Alcohol Dragster championship seasons (2012 and 2013), and wife Annie, an integral part of what’s still the quickest side-by-side race in Top Alcohol Funny Car history (5.376-5.382 here in the 2017 final), paced a star-studded field Thursday afternoon, tied atop the early leaderboard with identical 5.510s. Jim went on to record a career-best 5.465 in Q2 and an even better 5.456 in last-shot qualifying, and Annie blew everyone away with a 5.438 for the No. 1 spot in Q3, outrunning even title contenders Doug Gordon and Sean Bellemeur.
Annie was right on time in the first round and sped to a smooth 5.453 but was blindsided by No. 16 qualifier Christine Foster, who came up with an incredible, out-of-nowhere 5.431 – low E.T. of the meet to that point and the best run of her life by more than a tenth. Then, in the very next pair, Jim assumed low E.T. with a 5.418, freight-training Chris Marshall’s 5.634, and in the pair after that Bellemeur made the second-quickest run of all time, a 5.359, to claim Low E.T for good.
Under perfect track and weather conditions again in round two, every full run by every winning and losing driver was in the 5.40s, including Whiteley’s 5.442 against Norwalk winner Bob McCosh’s otherwise excellent 5.488. Bellemeur and Gordon both ran 5.40-flats, with Bellemeur losing on a holeshot to Kyle Smith’s 5.425 and Gordon clinching his third national championship on Matt Gill’s foul start.
With a holeshot semifinal win over Smith, who fell despite a fine .042 reaction time, Whiteley moved into his first NHRA national event final since the 2018 Springnationals in Houston, where he won Pro Mod, and first ever in Top Alcohol Funny Car. “Kyle runs good and really knows how to cut a light,” said Whiteley, whose near-perfect .010 reaction time made for a 5.439 to 5.421 win. “I knew I had to have a good one, but I damn sure didn’t know that was a .010.”
Whiteley was right there in the final against Gordon until his car shelled the rear end around half-track, slowing him to a hapless 6.226 while Gordon shot ahead to a winning 5.414. “The 60 [foot time] was .919,” said crew chief Brandon Snider, who knows a thing or two about getting torque-converter cars off the starting line. “If it made it, that would’ve been about a 5.38.”