Tag: Annie (Page 1 of 13)

TAFC – MARTIN

Both J&A Service/YNot Racing Funny Cars – Jim Whiteley’s spotless white one and wife Annie’s familiar blue machine – 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 champion Sean Bellemeur, and Marshall made the most of it, starting with a wheels-up, nearly aborted 3.58 that was on the ragged edge of control from beginning to end.

Jim qualified No. 4 and nearly pulled off an outrageous upset with a massive holeshot in the first round, falling just short of Marshall in the lights by the invisible margin of two-thousandths of a second. Annie put away Steve Macklyn’s Mustang in the other first-round matchup and in the final round just missed doing what Jim almost did in the opening round: beat 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 a couple 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.”

TAFC – TULSA

In the afterglow of the rescheduled Memphis race finished at Tulsa Raceway Park, one of the best overall events in team history, the Throwdown in T-Town turned out to be a major disappointment for YNot Racing, especially in Top Alcohol Funny Car, where both Annie and Jim Whiteley were upended in the first round.

Annie, who has a lifetime win-loss record of 14-4 (.778) in Tulsa, blew the tires off at the hit and fell to former nitro Funny Car racer Steve Macklyn, and Jim did likewise two pair later opposite second-generation driver Brian Brown. Macklyn’s and Brown’s winning times (3.77 and 3.95, respectively) only made the losses even more grating – neither was close to the Whiteleys’ qualifying performances, and both were gone one round later.

“We finished Memphis here, and the first and second round counted as the second and third qualifying runs for Tulsa,” Annie said. “We got an extra run because we were in the final [of the rescheduled Memphis event], and after that, I think it all got a little confusing for everybody.”

Annie qualified No. 3 for the Throwdown in T-Town with a 3.66 at 211.56 mph – quicker and faster than she’d just run to win the rescheduled Memphis event. Jim, racing his beautiful white Camaro for just the second time, wasn’t far behind, but neither cracked the six-second mark on the eighth-mile course in their brief stay in eliminations.

“You just won the Memphis race, and now you’re nothing?” asked Annie, who won back-to-back NHRA regionals here in in 2012 and 2013 and reached the final a third straight time in 2014. “Sometimes, I guess that’s just how it goes: in a few hours you really can go from a hero to a zero, just like they say. I don’t know what the hell happened up there – the car just didn’t make it that time. It took the tire off. Jim’s car did the exact same thing, and we didn’t change a thing on either one.”

TAFC – MEMPHIS

In her first (and last) trip to Memphis International Raceway, Top Alcohol Funny Car star Annie Whiteley nailed down her first event title of the 2022 season. It just didn’t actually happen in Memphis.

Final eliminations were contested in Tulsa, where the rained-out originally scheduled event was completed because Memphis, home to numerous NHRA national events since it opened 35 years ago, is now closed, doomed forever, like so many race tracks these days, to a dreary future as commercial property.

“We got two qualifying runs in Memphis but never did run a round there,” Whiteley said. “You’ve never seen anybody want to race as much as [husband] Jim did, and he never got to. We kept trying to run and kept getting sent back to the pits. We were just going up for first round when water started coming back up through the track again and they called the race for good. At that point, there really wasn’t much they could do.”

Except move it to Mid-West Drag Racing Series headquarters in Tulsa, where Whiteley, who’s always done well there, mowed down the field for a convincing victory. At tracks more than 400 miles apart, she had everybody covered from beginning to end, starting with a 3.69 at an even 211.00-mph flat on the slippery Memphis strip and closing the deal with more 3.60s in Oklahoma.

With a whole ‘nother race to run (the originally scheduled Throwdown in T-Town), Funny Car teams were afforded just a single get-acquainted run before Memphis eliminations began in Tulsa, her childhood home. At the controls of the YNot/J&A Service missile, she went through everybody, easily outdistancing onetime nemesis Chris Marshall in the final. When his candy-red Camaro went silent at half-track, she sailed uncontested to a 3.68 win while he coasted across the finish line well behind her with a 5-flat.

TAFC – FERRIS

Instead of opening yet another season utterly dominating the NHRA Belle Rose Central Regional, where she’s never been beaten (five wins in a row – 2017-21), Top Alcohol Funny Car star Annie Whiteley kicked off 2022 with a final-round finish at the Mid-West Drag Racing Series’ Xtreme Texas Nationals.

Coming off a down year beset with traction problems, inconsistency, and, as ever, bad luck, Whiteley wheeled her Yenko-blue J&A Service/YNot Camaro to the No. 2 qualifying spot at the revamped Ferris, Texas facility. With a 3.60-flat at nearly 215 mph on the eighth-mile Xtreme Raceway Park course, she had everybody covered except incoming favorite Sean Bellemeur, the reigning NHRA and MWDRS series champion. Bellemeur was No. 1 with a 3.578/216.08, followed closely by Whiteley, 2021 series runner-up Chris Marshall (3.647/211.57), the up-and-coming family team of Steve Macklyn (3.759/205.48), second-generation driver Bryan Brown (3.815/203.25), and Florida transplant Mark Billington (4.331/193.80).

When eliminations commenced, Whiteley had even Bellemeur under her thumb, laying down low e.t. of the entire opening round, a 3.613 at 214.59 mph, to oust Brown, who put up a competitive 3.701 at 207.18 mph in the loss, just missing the 3.60s. Without running quite that quick (3.702/208.72), Marshall advanced into the semifinals over Macklyn, and Bellemeur was the next-quickest (and fastest) of the round with a 3.626/213.78 single when Billington was unable to appear.

In the semi’s, Bellemeur got another single and Whiteley moved into her first final of the new season with a wire-to-wire decision over Marshall’s Oregon-based team. She had the quicker reaction time, .061 to .072, and pulled away from there for a 3.594/215, her quickest, fastest run all weekend, to take out his 3.649/209.59. Another solid reaction time in the under-the-lights final, a clutch .040, did Whiteley little good when she ran into trouble downtrack and slowed to a 5.29 at 93 mph while Bellemeur disappeared into the distance with a winning 3.560/216.66.

TAFC – LAS VEGAS REGIONAL 2021

Annie Whiteley wound up probably the most difficult year of her career right where it all began a decade ago, The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, trending in a positive direction for maybe the first time since the first race of this long season. When qualifying was complete, she didn’t just have low e.t. of the meet, she had low e.t., the second-lowest e.t., and the fourth-lowest e.t. – two 5.50s and a 5.51.

Running as close to the .40s as possible without actually running one, Whiteley claimed the top spot with a time of exactly five and a half seconds – 5.500 at 266.27 mph. The speed ended up second behind only the 266.48-mph charge of eventual winner Sean Bellemeur and the Bartone Bros. team led by Steve Boggs.

“Doug Gordon’s team really helped us with the clutch,” Whiteley said, “and I mean really helped us. It’s pretty unbelievable for somebody like them, a team that won the championship last year and just about won it again this year, to do something like that for somebody else, but that’s exactly what they did.”

In the first round against Alaska’s Ray Martin, like her one of the very, very few ever to win their first Top Alcohol Funny Car start, Whiteley drilled him on the Tree. She was out first by more than half a tenth, .080 to .131, and, despite coasting across the finish line at barely 210 mph, emerged victorious. “The blower belt broke,” she explained after narrowly advancing with a 5.71/211 over Martin’s fast-closing 5.75/252.

Sunday afternoon in the first pair of the semi’s, Whiteley’s luck ran out. Gordon put away No. 2 qualifier Terry Ruckman, 5.56/265 to 5.68/252, in the other pair, and she outran both of them – but, unfortunately for her, not the only one that mattered. She and Bellemeur, who locked up the national championship here last weekend, pre-staged simultaneously and staged almost at the same time, but the now three-time champ pulled steadily ahead of her for a 5.51/265 to 5.54/264 victory.

Whiteley’s final scorecard for the 2021 season: a win (Belle Rose), a runner-up (Martin on the Mid-West Drag Racing Series tour), three semifinal finishes (this weekend in Las Vegas and the Ferris and Tulsa MWDRS events), 11th place in the NHRA standings, fourth in the MWDRS, and a positively un-Whiteleylike overall win-loss record of 10-14.

TAFC – LAS VEGAS NATIONAL 2021

With a promising performance at the penultimate race of a largely forgettable 2021 season, Annie Whiteley might just have turned the corner heading into the 2022 campaign. Plagued by one thing after another from the time she left Belle Rose, La., with a victory in the season opener, 2021 was the very definition of a down year. This second-to-last weekend of the season was anything but.

From a decent 5.60 at 263 mph on her opening hit, Whiteley got only quicker every trip back under The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway arch. She posted a significantly better 5.54/264 Friday afternoon and an incrementally quicker and faster 5.53/265 in last-shot qualifying Saturday morning for the No. 6 spot in the 16-car Top Alcohol Funny Car field.

That afternoon in the first round of eliminations, as she had on almost every other run, Whiteley laid down her best pass all weekend, leaving on former national event winner Kris Hool and outrunning him to boot. Her right-down-the-groove 5.52/265 wasted his aborted 9.65 at 113 mph and improved her all-time head-to-head record against the Wyoming veteran to a tidy 6-3. It wasn’t just her quickest run of the event; it was all 16 drivers’ quickest run of the first round, including championship contenders Sean Bellemeur (5.58) and Doug Gordon (5.66).

That night, immediately after the nitro cars wrapped up qualifying for Sunday’s race, Whiteley faced quarterfinal opponent Chris Marshall, who, like her, split his time this year between the NHRA and MWDRS circuits. They left, and her car, as if pulled by some giant magnet buried under the centerline, strayed inexorably to the right until she finally relented somewhere in high gear.

“It pulled me over toward the centerline, and I had to pull it back,” Whiteley said. “Then it did it again, and I pulled it back again, but when it tried to pull me over there again in high gear I thought, ‘Nahhhh … that’s enough,’ and shut it off.” Marshall collected the round-win with a 5.56/264, while Whiteley, despite clicking it early and coasting across the stripe at only 222 mph, still recorded a 5.64.

TAFC – FERRIS 2021

The only good thing about Annie’s 2021 Mid-West Drag Racing Series season is that it’s over. A solid reaction time and a competitive run at the Xtreme Texas World Finals only got her another first-round loss, her third straight in what’s turned out to be the most disappointing year of her long, successful 10-year driving career.

Things got off to a promising enough start at Xtreme Raceway Park in tiny Ferris, Texas, just outside Dallas, when Whiteley clocked a 3.71 at 210.58 mph in the second Funny Car session and a steady 3.72/209.89 in the third. Both speeds held up as the fastest of the entire session, but her 3.71 E.T. was good for only the No. 6 spot overall – not bad, usually, but, in this case, not that great: there were just six Funny Cars in attendance.

Instead of No. 1 vs No. 6, 2 vs. 5 and 3 vs. 4 in the first round as with a traditional six-car NHRA ladder, No. 1 qualifier Sean Bellemeur and No. 2 qualifier Chris Marshall soloed in the first round under the MWDRS’ unconventional format, and the semifinals featured a full complement of four cars. Unfortunately for Whiteley, her J&A Service/YNot Racing Camaro wasn’t one of them.

She charged off the line with her best reaction time of the race, a more than respectable .070, and dipped into the 3.60s with her quickest run all weekend, a 3.69, but Bill Bernard, clinging to an outside shot at the championship, nipped her in the lights in a rematch of last month’s U.S. 131 Nationals final. He clocked a 3.67 to win, then lost in the semifinals to Sean Bellemeur, who clinched the title and subsequently topped second-place Marshall in the final to win a second crown going away.

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