Tag: Annie (Page 1 of 14)

TAFC – POMONA

Annie Whiteley wrapped up her 11th season as a Top Alcohol Funny Car driver at the NHRA Finals with her best run of the year on what turned out to be her last run of the year. Whiteley, who won the rescheduled Memphis Mid-West Drag Racing Series event, runner-upped at four other MWDRS events, and made her first final-round appearance in NHRA competition in three years, reached the semifinals at one of her least favorite tracks in either, fabled Pomona Raceway.

Led by crew chief Mike Strasburg, the team came off the trailer Thursday morning with an outstanding 5.49 at 269 mph, backed it up with a super-consistent 5.50, also at 269 mph, and locked up the No. 5 position Friday in last-shot qualifying with a stellar 5.46 at 270.00 mph flat. When eliminations began, the J&A Service/YNot Racing Camaro got only faster, with another 5.46/270 that, combined with a noticeable holeshot head start, made quick work of Alaskan Ray Martin’s best run of the year, 5.51/264.

In the quarterfinals, Whiteley clinched the 2022 NHRA Top Alcohol Funny Car championship for Doug Gordon by beating rival Shane Westerfield, who had led the national standings almost all season. He threw away a 5.44/268 on a red-light start but Whiteley would have been tough to handle regardless with yet another 5.4, a 5.47/268. The race and the season came to an end Sunday afternoon in the quarterfinals when Whiteley’s unbelievable 5.42/271 was held off by Gordon’s slightly slower 5.45/268 on a small holeshot.

It was a disappointing end to what’s been a particularly strong season, the YNot team’s best in years. Whiteley winds up 2022 with at least a semifinal finish in seven of her last eight starts, a victory, six final-round appearances, a 20-15 (.571) win-loss record, and a career record of 113-90 (.557) in NHRA national event competition.

TAFC – LAS VEGAS REGIONAL

Though she fell short of the ultimate goal – another event title – Annie Whiteley turned in yet another rock-solid performance at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with a semifinal appearance at the final NHRA regional event of the year. Whiteley, who’s reached at least the semi’s in six of her past seven starts, came out on the wrong end of a tight semifinal match with Chris Marshall after beating him on a holeshot in the same round at the same facility last week at the Nevada Nationals.

The Whiteleys’ Mike Strasburg-tuned J&A Service/YNot Racing machine came off the trailer with a blistering 5.47 at more than 270 mph in the opening qualifying session to set the tone for another successful weekend, a trend long established as 2022 winds to a close. The whole top half of the Top Alcohol Funny Car field, which year after year is the toughest to make in any region in the country, was locked in the 5.40s, with Whiteley in the No. 3 slot, behind the matching 5.42s of Marshall and national championship contender Doug Gordon.

Pitted against No. 6 qualifier Kris Hool in the first round of eliminations, Whiteley, who swept both Vegas regionals in her rookie season of 2012, advanced easily when he red-lighted and smoked the tires just off the line in what might have been his last launch ever in a Funny Car. She got off the line cleanly, and with a steady 5.52/267 powered to an easy win to move into yet another semifinal.

There, Whiteley’s weekend came to a close when, despite the best reaction time of the entire round and despite an even quicker run than she put up in her first-round win (5.528 to 5.523), she still fell to Marshall, who made just one run out of the 5.40s all weekend. Marshall got back in the .40s with a 5.49/266 to run down her early lead and second straight 5.52 to win by a scant 14-thousandths of a second.

TAFC – LAS VEGAS NATIONAL

In her first final-round appearance opposite Doug Gordon since their historic Dallas duel in 2017, Annie Whiteley fell just short in the NHRA Nevada Nationals final, 5.47/265 to 5.51/265. “This is one time I’m actually fine with a runner-up,” said Whiteley, who’s achieved massive success this year in MWDRS competition but not much in her infrequent appearances on the NHRA tour. “This is the first time we’ve gotten out of the second round at a national event all year.”

Husband Jim Whiteley’s J&A Service/YNot Racing Camaro continues to struggle in the back half, but Annie’s car was strong all weekend, from an off-the-trailer 5.49 at 268 mph in the first qualifying session right through the final. She stormed to a 5.52/267 mph in the opening round against veteran Nick Januik, whose lone national event victory came early in his career right here at his hometown track, blatantly red-lighted away any shot at a second Vegas title.

In the middle rounds of eliminations, Annie mowed down a pair of longtime nemeses, past national event winners Brian Hough and Chris Marshall, to move into her first NHRA final since she fell to Hough at the 2019 SpringNationals in Houston. She and Hough left almost simultaneously, and she powered away from him with every shift for a convincing 5.48/268 to 5.57/264 win. Returning the favor from their first-round match here in 2015, she then trounced Marshall on a huge holeshot in the semi’s, 5.55/264 to 5.45/266, before dropping the tight final-round decision to Gordon, who kept himself alive for the 2022 championship with a crucial win.

“So many crappy things have happened to us at NHRA races this year,” Whiteley said, “it’s nice to have something go our way for once. It’s just been one gremlin after another – smoking the tires when the tune-up should’ve been fine, blower studs breaking and letting out all the boost for no reason, and the command module quitting first round at Dallas, when I was way ahead. Hopefully, that bad luck is gone for good now.”

TAFC – FERRIS

Already a major event winner in Pro Mod and a world champion in Top Alcohol Dragster, Jim Whiteley has now reached the summit in a third top-tier drag racing category: Top Alcohol Funny Car, where wife Annie has been winning for years.

At the Xtreme Texas World Finals, the grand finale of the 2022 Mid-West Drag Racing Series, the Whiteleys finally got the matchup both have envisioned since the day Jim first climbed in a Funny Car: husband vs. wife with an event title on the line. The only thing better would have been a side-by-sider right to the lights like so many their other matchups this season.

Instead, Annie blew the tires off in low gear and Jim streaked ahead for the win, his first at the controls of a Funny Car. “Now, that was fun,” he said. “Winning feels just as good as it ever did. I just wish it would’ve been a close race.” It was anything but – his 3.68 at 209 mph easily outdistanced Annie’s harmless 7.62 at 58 mph.

“I guess that was just one run too many on that set of tires,” she said. “It was going to be the last run on them anyway, but it looks they were 35-run tires, not 36-.” Until the very end, every pass she made was a keeper, including a 3.63/213, 3.64/212, and 3.66/211 in qualifying, which added up to not just low e.t. but top speed of all three sessions for her first No. 1 since the rescheduled Memphis race completed in Tulsa.

Both Whiteleys covered the eighth-mile Xtreme Raceway Park course in 3.63 seconds in qualifying, Annie at a booming 213.47 mph and Jim at 211.17. He edged Steve Macklyn in the first round in the best race of the event, 3.70/207 to 3.71/203, after an almost dead-even start. She stayed in the .60s with a 3.669 on the first-round single she earned for qualifying No. 1, then beat newly crowned MWDRS champion Chris Marshall’s event-best 3.63 with an another 3.669 on his red-light start.

When Jim ran within two-thousandths of a second of Annie’s semifinal time on a 3.671 single, the table was set for a classic side-by-side final, the race they’ve been dreaming of. But after a perfect start, nearly identical .030 lights, that dream literally went up in smoke. “I didn’t really care who won,” Annie said. “I just wanted us both to run well, and I really thought we would. We had been all weekend, right?”

TAFC – DALLAS

The Fall Nationals, home of some of the truly unforgettable weekends in both Jim and Annie Whiteley’s careers, was anything but in 2022. This year, Dallas, where Jim scored three times in Top Alcohol Dragster (2008-12-13) and Annie was part of the quickest side-by-side race in Top Alcohol Funny Car history (5.37-5.38 opposite Doug Gordon in the 2017 final), ended in first-round frustration for both drivers.

In just their fourth NHRA national event appearance of the season (following Norwalk, Brainerd, and Indy) both members of drag racing’s premier husband-and-wife team were gone after a single round of eliminations, Jim in a match anybody else would’ve lost too and Annie in a heartbreaker she had in the bag.

After stringing together solid back-to-back qualifying runs (5.54/264 and 5.57/261), Jim found himself up against one of the top two Top Alcohol Funny Car drivers of the past five years, 2020 world champion Doug Gordon, who was all but out of title contention a few weeks ago but now finds himself very much back in it. It didn’t last long. Jim got off the line with the known leaver but overpowered the track in low gear while Gordon, fresh off a win at the St. Louis regional, drove away to a 5.51/267 win he desperately needs to chase down Shane Westerfield for the 2022 championship.

Annie positively drilled first-round opponent Kris Hool on the Tree and couldn’t possibly have lost unless something mechanical went wrong. Something mechanical went wrong: the car shut itself off. She and Hool staged simultaneously – always a difficult prospect because both drivers think they’re staging first but in effect are actually staging last. Annie maintained her composure for a clutch .033 light that had her a car-length ahead of Hool, who flinched for a .157 but advanced anyway when Annie’s car inexplicably shut itself off at the top of low gear, spewing unburned fuel out the headers as she looked on helplessly while he drove around her and into the quarterfinals.

TAFC – GREAT BEND

The last time a cancelled Mid-West Drag Racing Series race was contested at another venue (earlier this season when Memphis was moved to Tulsa), Annie Whiteley emerged victorious. This time, not so much – but she didn’t miss by much.

Whiteley, who entered the rescheduled Great Bend Nationals atop the Funny Car rankings, made the final but actually lost ground in the standings because the only driver ahead of her was the one who took her out: longtime nemesis Chris Marshall. The 10-year pro, who’d shut off to a 5.76 at 82 mph on her lone qualifying attempt back in Kansas, which was called off after Ronnie Hobbs’ fatal crash took out the clocks, led Marshall by a single point when they passed through the gates at Tulsa Raceway Park.

With an outstanding 3.636 at 213.27 mph in the first round, Whiteley trounced friend Steve Macklyn, who blatantly fouled and coasted to a 9.25 at 48 mph, completing an odd pattern: for perhaps the first time ever, every single race in a round of Top Alcohol Funny Car eliminations was decided on a red-light.

Bryan Brown’s near miss (-.006) invalidated a 3.68/206, advancing Annie’s husband, Jim, who ran a similar 3.67/210 in what otherwise would have been the best race of the round. Then Colorado’s Bill Bernard, using a clutch instead of the torque converter he has for years, threw away any shot he had of upsetting Marshall’s 3.57/314 low E.T./top speed blast with a -.107 bulb.

After Marshall clocked a 3.64/212 on a single, Jim and Annie faced off, as they seem to every weekend, in the other semifinal matchup. Annie got the best of their latest head-to-head clash in a great race after Jim moved first. Both were more than on time ­­(Jim with a .041 reaction time, Annie a .052), but Jim’s 3.68/209 wasn’t enough when she duplicated her first-round time almost to the thousand of a second for a 3.635/213 win.

Pressing to dip into the 3.50s in the final, Annie lost traction, coasting to a disappointing 8.24 at 51 mph. It was particularly exasperating because another low .60 might just have been enough to win – Marshall slowed to his worst run of eliminations, a 3.64 at 212 mph, but still won the race and passed her for the points lead.

TAFC – MARTIN

Both J&A Service/YNot Racing Funny Cars – Jim Whiteley’s spotless white machine and wife Annie’s familiar blue one – were taken out by the same car at the U.S. 131 Nationals, the flamed Camaro of 2021 Mid-West Drag Racing Series runner-up Chris Marshall. Everything was wide-open in the absence of reigning series champion Sean Bellemeur, and Marshall made the most of it, starting with a wheels-up, nearly aborted 3.58 in qualifying that was on the ragged edge of control from start to finish.

Jim ended up fourth and nearly pulled off an outrageous first-round upset with a massive holeshot, falling just short of Marshall in the lights by the invisible margin of two-thousandths of a second. Annie put away Steve Macklyn’s Ford Mustang in the other opening-round matchup and in the final just missed pulling off what Jim almost did had: beating Marshall on a holeshot.

But instead of a perfect .000 light, Annie, who has really come into her own on the Tree this year, red-lighted by mere thousandths of a second with a frustrating -.002 reaction time. With the race lost, she shut off early and coasted across the eighth-mile finish line at 88 mph with what would’ve been a great E.T. on a quarter-mile (5.52), while the Oregon-based driver, who reverted to an old setup for this race after a disappointing U.S. Nationals, sped to a 3.62 at a booming 212.06 mph. For Annie, who qualified No. 1 here last year, it was her second runner-up in a row at the revamped Martin, Mich., facility.         

The 2022 Mid-West Drag Racing Series season wraps up with another double event in Tulsa (not unlike the rained-out Memphis event that was finished in conjunction with the regularly scheduled Tulsa event this spring). It all unfolds Oct. 7-8 at Osage Casino & Hotel Tulsa Raceway Park, where the cancelled Great Bend Nationals will be contested as part of the traditional Throwdown in T-Town MWDRS season finale.

TAFC – INDY

The U.S. Nationals, site of one of Jim Whiteley’s greatest victories ever (Top Alcohol Dragster in 2013) and three final-round appearances in four years for wife Annie (Top Alcohol Funny Car in 2012, 2013, and 2015) turned out to be an exercise in frustration this year. Husband and wife ran head-to-head in the first qualifying session, left almost simultaneously, and posted virtually identical E.T.s – 5.625 and 5.627, respectively – but from there it all went downhill.

“The car’s just not running right,” said Jim, who fell in the opening round to eventual winner Sean Bellemeur’s 5.48/266 (low E.T. of the meet to that point). “It won’t run on the other end. We thought we had it all figured out at Brainerd, but, obviously, we don’t.”

Annie got quicker as qualifying progressed but also found herself on the sidelines before round two. After the matching 5.62s on altogether dissimilar runs – Jim coasted across the finish line at just 245.90 mph and Annie charged through the traps going 20 mph faster (265.48) – her blue J&A Service/YNot racing Camaro improved to a 5.61/264 and then to a much quicker 5.54/265 Saturday afternoon. Over the same span, Jim’s matching white machine improved only marginally, to a 5.60-flat at 261 mph that left him in the slow half of the field, 14th overall.

Though they were only six-hundredths of a second apart, Annie qualified eight spots higher than Jim in the final order, a solid No. 6. Two pair behind him in a first-round rematch of the 2015 final against Andy Bohl, she blasted off the line first but was dead in the water 100 feet out while Bohl pedaled to a beatable 5.82. “After we saw what Jim’s car did, we made adjustments to mine,” she said. “I don’t know what happened, but whatever we did, it didn’t like it.”

One positive was that with a .058 reaction time, Annie had the edge at the Tree with one of many .050s and better this season, indicating that any past problems are now a thing of the past. “We poured a new seat, and I’m comfortable in the car,” she said. “I feel good now. That’s all I needed.”

TAFC – BRAINERD

Jim and Annie Whiteley, perpetually in lockstep in their personal and professional lives, have become, in a particularly exasperating development for both, just as inseparable on the quarter-mile.

In his short tenure as a Top Alcohol Funny Car driver, Jim somehow has faced off against wife Annie more than he has all other drivers combined. On a 10-car eliminator ladder, No. 4 runs No. 7 first round, and when Annie ended Lucas Oil Nationals qualifying 4th with a 5.52/266, guess where Jim’s 5.56/261 put him? Right: 7th.

“If it was a final round, that’d be fine – one of us would win the race,” Jim said of their latest head-to-head clash. “This? No thanks. But what are we going to do about it?” They’ve already faced each other at Mid-West Drag Racing Series events and in Lucas Oil regional competition, so in Jim’s first official TAFC round at an NHRA national event, why not here too?

One pair before Doug Gordon’s violent top-end crash opposite eventual winner Shane Westerfield in a titanic showdown between the first- and second-ranked drivers in the national standings, Jim and Annie left within thousandths of a second of each other, with Annie out first, .059 to .063. It was over soon after when her car blew the tires off while his motored to a smooth 5.57.

“I’ve still only made only 16 or 17 runs in a Funny Car – definitely under 20,” Jim said, “and I’m getting more comfortable every time. I love driving it, always have. You just have to stay after this thing right to the end instead of locking your left arm in low gear like you do in a Pro Mod.

“I think it needed a little more timing in the back half – that’s why we were down several mph at the top end,” said Jim, who won back-to-back Top Alcohol Dragster titles here in 2011 and 2012. “We thought we had it figured out before the second round, and that probably should have been the best run I’ve ever made – 5.51 or .52.”

To compound his frustration, opponent Bob McCosh blew the engine on his single, so Jim almost certainly would’ve made his first Funny Car semifinal appearance in NHRA competition, if not his first final. “It’s OK,” he said. “It’s fixed now. That’s not happening again.”

TAFC – NORWALK

It doesn’t usually take Annie Whiteley too many races to bag that first NHRA win of the season. For five years now, it’s taken exactly one: Belle Rose.

But now we’re halfway through the year, and Whiteley’s vaunted J&A Service/YNot team has been largely absent from the NHRA scene, relegated to appearances on the Mid-West Drag Racing Series tour, where, over the past few years, she’s really made a name for herself. “It’s not like I didn’t want to be out here,” Whiteley said of her second NHRA start of 2022. “It’s been my back. People would call, asking if we’d be at Belle Rose because we always start out [winning] at that race, but this year, I couldn’t because my back wouldn’t let me. Now it is.”

Other than a single NHRA outing at the Dallas Regional, where she got just one qualifying attempt and went out first round, Whiteley hadn’t driven 1320 feet since late last season in Las Vegas. “It’s nice to be back on the quarter-mile,” she said at Norwalk, one of her favorite tracks on either tour. “I love the Mid-West deal, but I prefer the quarter-mile. And I like this track. Always have.”

Whiteley made quality runs on two of three qualifying attempts – all but the first, when it seemed no one could get down the barren right lane. She pounded out back-to-back 5.50s in the remaining sessions to secure a spot in the fast half of the field and another in the first round to send driver Tyler Scott and team owner Larry Dobbs back to the Great White North. Both were right on time with .051 reaction times, but Whiteley pulled further and further ahead of the Canadian driver with every shift of her B&J trans for a 5.57/266 to 5.75/249 win.

That same run with the same reaction time in the quarterfinals would have been enough to turn back DJ Cox, but by then conditions had changed. Both cars slowed – just about everybody in that round did – but Whiteley lost three-hundredths of a second and Cox just two in a tight 5.58/261 to 5.60/266 match. “It was almost like the car was shaking the tires,” she said, “but it really wasn’t. I don’t know you’d call it – ‘rough?’ It wasn’t full-on tire-shake, but it was something – something just enough to make me lose.”

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