A semifinalist, at least, at every race this year, Annie Whiteley plowed forward at the Central Regional at Dallas with yet another final-four performance. At the original supertrack, the world-famous Texas Motorplex, she just missed low E.T. in qualifying and just missed her second final-round appearance of the season, which, had she gotten that far, would have, without question, resulted in a second straight win.

There was no final-round opponent, and, thus, no chance of a runner-up finish – Whiteley was either going to lose in the semifinals or win the event. Unfortunately for her, she lost in the semifinals to Kyle Smith, whose reaction time just missed costing him the race.

Three-thousandths of a second quicker than his near-perfect .002, and Smith would’ve red-lighted, handing Whiteley a final-round berth and, ultimately, a final-round win because Bryan Brown, who needed only to stage in the other semi to secure a berth in the title round, was sidelined by a broken crank. “It was doubly bad,” said Whiteley, who blew the tires off immediately and coasted silently across the finish line at 96 mph while Smith shot ahead with a beatable 5.57.

“We all knew Bryan wasn’t going to be there for the final,” Whiteley said. “He’d already come by and told us. People offered to help him put something together so he could run, but he just said, ‘We’re done,’ so the semifinal was basically the final.”

Whiteley had driven the “Shattered Glass” Camaro to the No. 2 spot in qualifying, behind only Bob McCosh (5.52 to 5.53), and had strapped a huge holeshot on returning veteran Mark Billington in the first round, .014 to .102, for a lopsided 5.55/264 win. He lost traction immediately and coasted through the traps with an E.T. and speed both in the 20s.

“This two-step really helps,” Whiteley said of her telepathic .014 light. “The funny part is, I don’t know why. I never wanted it. They put it on the car right after they were made legal, and I wanted no part of it. I postponed it and postponed it and postponed it. I just didn’t like it – to me, it takes away from the integrity of the class – but Jim said, ‘Just try it. I know you see the light and leave better than what your reaction times say. If it doesn’t work, we’ll take it off, so let’s see if it helps.’ It does, but if I can react like this now, why couldn’t I cut decent lights the old way?”

In the semifinal/final, Whiteley was right on time with a solid .064 light, but reaction times proved immaterial when she went up in smoke at the hit. “It spun the tires instantly [60-foot time: 1.16], which probably hurt my reaction time too, and when it blows the tires off that early, there’s nothing you can do. The car kicked sideways a little, and I saw Smith out the window and thought, ‘Damn, he’s really hauling ass, isn’t he? This is over.’ “