Like Manzo at Maple Grove, Glidden at Indy, or Garlits at Ontario, Annie Whiteley doesn’t lose at Belle Rose. But instead of being virtually unbeatable at her favorite track like those all-time greats are at theirs, Whiteley is literally unbeatable at in Belle Rose. She’s never lost there – five career starts, five wins, and a 15-0 lifetime win-loss record.
Whiteley, who topped Bob McCosh in a wild final last year, got him again this time, again in easily the best side-by-side matchup of the entire weekend, 5.53 to 5.58. “I never think about anything or worry about anything no matter what anyone in front of me does,” she said. “Half the time you can’t even hear what the announcer’s saying anyway, but that time I could: ‘I don’t know how many times in a row she’s won this thing,’ he said. ‘It’s got to be at least three – probably four.’ And I’m sitting there, strapped in, thinking, ‘You know, I don’t think it’s four in a row – I think it’s five. No, I’m pretty sure it is five…’ And then I’m like, ‘What are you doing? Quit thinking about that and drive the car.’ And I did.”
Whiteley outran everybody in qualifying, earning a first-round bye, outdueled Kris Hool in the semi’s, and squashed McCosh in the final – just like last year. En route to her 18th regional/divisional victory and 24th career win overall, she started No. 1 by almost two-tenths of a second (5.562) and set top speed of the meet (266.70 mph). Neither mark would last the weekend; both ultimately would be bettered, repeatedly – by her.
In the first pair of the first round of the first Top Alcohol Funny Car race of 2021, Whiteley’s safe, straight-down-the-groove 5.64/263 gave her have lane choice over Hool in the semi’s. McCosh, who’d turned back veteran Mark Billington in the opening stanza with 5.56/264, tying her for low E.T. to that point, produced a consistent 5.57 in the semi’s to show he’d be a handful in the final. He was, but minutes later in the other semi, Whiteley reclaimed low E.T. in a 5.535/268.03 (top speed) decision over Hool.
Then, in a fitting final between the Nos. 1 and 2 qualifiers, Whiteley and McCosh posted their quickest reaction times of the entire event. “I’ve never really cut good lights at this place,” she said. “I don’t know if it’s because they have the car slowed down so much early that it hurts my reaction times or what, but I can’t cut a light here no matter what I do.”
Whiteley didn’t trail McCosh by much off the line and steadily pulled away downtrack, resetting low E.T. one last time in a 5.531/267 to 5.58/262 win. It propelled her to an early lead in the national standings and stood as the YNot/J&A Racing team’s first victory in exactly a year, since she got the best of McCosh here in the wild 2020 final, when he pushed it to the edge in an all-out quest for his first NHRA win. “I still have no idea why we always win here,” she said. “Jim and I were looking at each other this weekend, saying it’s got to end sooner or later. But it wasn’t this year.”