For the second year in a row, Jim and Annie Whiteley met in the Top Alcohol Funny Car final at the Mid-West Drag Racing Series World Finals, where last year Jim secured his first win as a Funny Car driver. Annie lost traction, just like last year, but this time it didn’t cost her the race – Jim had even bigger problems in the other lane.
“I haven’t smoked the tires like that in probably five years,” Annie said. “I came completely off the throttle and thought, ‘What the hell was that?’ But then it was like, ‘Wait a minute … Why isn’t he driving away from me?’ and I got back on it.”
The snout on Jim’s converter gave up, knocking him out of the race. “It was charging hard,” he said, “but it gave up right before the gear change, just went ‘bam-bam-bam.’ I got on the brakes when it let go because at first I wasn’t sure what was going on. They got down there to tow me off and the car wouldn’t move; it was locked up. We had to put the car on dollies to get it off the track.”
Jim qualified No. 1, and Annie was No. 2, which set her up with a semifinal match against No. 3 qualifier and former NHRA Division 2 champion Mark Billington in his first race back from a big crash earlier this season. Billington put up a good fight with a solid 3.72 at 206 mph, but Annie left on him, .075 to .084, and put him away with a superior 3.69/213 to advance to another final.
With nearly identical .015 and .018 reaction times, husband and wife both were more than ready when the Tree flashed green. “For some reason – it’s not like I’m not trying just as hard against everybody else – I always do well against Jim,” Annie said. “It blew the tires off and I thought I was out of it, but out of the corner of my I realized I was catching him so I got back on it and ran it to the end. If was funny, actually. The first shift light didn’t come on until I was at the eighth-mile – right where the second one usually comes on.”