Tag: belle rose

TAFC – BELLE ROSE 2021

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.”

TAFC – BELLE ROSE 2020

Every year at the first hint of spring, Annie Whiteley and the J&A Service/YNot team abandon the natural beauty of Grand Junction, Colo., for the swampy Louisiana bayou, and every year they win. After perhaps her strongest performance ever in tiny Belle Rose, La., the diminutive, soft-spoken driver, now 12-0 lifetime in eliminations at No Problem Raceway, has amassed four victories in four career stops at the aptly named track.

Whiteley smashed both ends of No Problem’s Top Alcohol Funny Car record in 2017 in her first appearance there, dropped Kris Hool in a pressure-packed winner-take-all final in 2018, established low e.t. and top speed en route to victory in 2019, and made it another wire-to-wire sweep this year with the pole, low e.t., and top speed. “I have no idea why we always do so well here,” she said. “It’s crazy. I mean, it’s definitely not the easiest track to get down.”

The Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series Central Region season opener couldn’t have started any better for the YNot team when crew chief Mike Strasburg dialed up an off-the-trailer 5.52 to give Whiteley the provisional qualifying lead over a field of past national event champions. “The track was better than ever this year, but it’s still a little bumpy,” she said. “It almost gives you false readings – you have to be careful.” Strasburg was anything but in the Saturday afternoon session, when Whiteley steamed to low e.t. of the meet, a 5.49 that earned the team a bye run in the first round of eliminations, which came in extra-handy this weekend as near-sea-level density-altitude readings and a tricky track conspired to confound top tuners.

Tiptoeing through the early portion of the quarter mile and legging it straight and true through the lights on her first-round solo, Whiteley recorded another 5.52 at more than 268 mph that stood up for low e.t. and top speed of the round. Semifinal opponent Kris Hool, who’d been all over the track in a 5.98 first-round win over surprise Winternationals winner Aryan Rochon, ran an even more all-over-the-track 7.21 against Whiteley in the semi’s, allowing her to advance with just a 5.88. Shake forced her to lift early and Hool almost crossed into her lane on two wheels at the top of low gear; she slammed back down on the gas to win, blissfully unaware that Hool had ever flirted with the center line.

That .88 cost Whiteley lane choice for the final against returning veteran Bob McCosh, who, with legendary Fred Mandoline, Top Alcohol Funny Car’s third-ever world champion , calling the tuning shots, hadn’t made a bad run all weekend. McCosh and Mandoline forced Whiteley into the right lane, which those with lane choice had avoided all day, but Team YNot remained unfazed. “They’ve fixed some of the bumps so the left lane is a little smoother than it used to be,” she said, “but the past two years the right was actually the better lane. We knew we could get down it in the final.”

Both drivers were ready to stage and race – no games – and Whiteley, for once, went in last. After nearly identical 60-foot times, she opened a noticeable lead at half-track and was going 15 mph faster by then and pulling comfortably away from McCosh (211 mph to his 195), but McCosh wasn’t letting his first NHRA Top Alcohol Funny Car event title get away that easily. He hung with it as long as he could, and not just in low gear – in high gear, too, at way beyond 230 mph. Whiteley never saw him, though, sailing down the so-called “bad” lane with a 5.55/268, safely ahead of McCosh’s valiant 6.02/203 and into the record books with her fourth straight Belle Rose win.

TAFC – BELLE ROSE 2019

For the third time in three career trips to No Problem Raceway, Annie Whiteley left remote Belle Rose, La., a champion. “I don’t know what it is about this place,” she said. “I say it every time: There’s just something about Belle Rose that our car likes. I wish it was like this everywhere we go.” Second in the national standings coming into the rescheduled race and fresh off a win at Dallas and a runner-up at Denver in her first two Central Region starts this season, Whiteley’s YNot team made it a clean sweep with low e.t., top speed, the No. 1 qualifying position, and a victory.

Whiteley, who beat second-generation racer Bryan Brown for the 2017 Belle Rose title and Kris Hool in last year’s final, topped Brown again in a traction-plagued match neither would have expected to win with the times they ran. Whiteley, who set the pace with a 5.67 in qualifying, fought her way to a 5.80, but it was enough to turn back the 5.90 of Brown’s Texas-based Camaro.

Originally scheduled for March but canceled before it ever even got started, the rain date attracted far fewer teams than would have lined up for the rained-out season opener. Just three braved the stifling heat and humidity of the Louisiana bayou in the summertime: Whiteley, Brown, and former Central Region champ Kirk Williams. Whiteley established the pace throughout, with an off-the-trailer 5.68 at 263 mph in Friday’s first qualifying session and a subsequent 5.67 at 264 for the No. 1 spot.

Following a 5.66 that reestablished low e.t. of the meet on the first-round bye she earned by qualifying No. 1, Whiteley staged opposite Brown in the final as an overwhelming favorite and manhandled the 3,000-horsepower beast to a good-enough 5.80 to win for the third year in a row. Off for the entire month of July while the Strasburg brothers prepare to break another record on the Bonneville Salt Flats, Whiteley’s YNot team will be back at the track the first week of August at the Northwest Nationals in Seattle.

TAFC – BELLE ROSE 2018

Annie Whiteley opened the 2018 season just as she did in 2017 – with a dominant win in the swamps of bayou country at the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series event at No Problem Raceway in Belle Rose, La. With one good run after another she was never headed, but that barrage in the preliminary rounds did her no good when it was time for the only round that mattered – the final.

Due to mechanical issues, travel problems, and the vagaries of early season scheduling, just two of the many teams slated to be in the lanes for the first qualifying session actually were: Whiteley’s YNot team and the Hool Bros.’ SK Tools crew from Wyoming. That meant no first round, no semifinals – just one run for the title.

“There’s always going to be nerves when you’re in a final,” said Whiteley, whose YNot Racing team, led by crew chief Mike Strasburg, had pounded out consecutive runs ranging between a track-record 5.44 at 271 mph and a 5.51 at 270. When the call went out for teams to report to the lanes for the final round, there was no buildup, nothing to draw from.

“It wasn’t like a normal final, where you’ve won all these other rounds to get there,” Whiteley said. “Every other final I’ve been in, at least I could say, ‘Well, I won the first round. I won the semi’s.’ This time, we both just rolled up there and whatever was going to happen was going to happen.” What happened was Whiteley left with a solid .075 reaction time and had it all the way with a steady 5.51 at 270.50 mph. Hool red-lighted, shut off, and coasted to a 10.89 at less than 100 mph. “That was one of the hardest runs I’ve ever made,” Whiteley said. “It’s just you and him. The whole weekend came down to that one run.”

TAFC – BELLE ROSE 2017

In her first appearance ever at No Problem Raceway, Annie Whiteley built off the momentum from her breakthrough Gatornationals win last month, her biggest in years, with a second victory in just three 2017 starts, dominating from the outset and leaving with low e.t., top speed, and both ends of the track record.

“The car was smooth every run,” Whiteley said. “The guys were chasing the heat and the track, and they really stayed on top of it. They kept adjusting the tire pressure and timing because the track was getting hotter but basically left it alone and the car kept repeating. The left lane was good and the right was a little iffy so you really wanted to keep lane choice, and we had it every time.”

Deadly consistency – a 5.57, 5.55, and 5.56 in eliminations, all three at exactly 268 mph – carried the J&A Service/YNot Racing team to the title in tiny Belle Rose, La., about an hour north of New Orleans. Whiteley set not just low e.t. and top speed but low e.t. and top speed of all three rounds of eliminations after shattering the track e.t. and speed marks with a 5.508 at 268.80 mph in qualifying.

After a solid 5.57 on the first-round single she earned by qualifying No. 1, Whiteley took out two-time national event winner Kris Hool in the semi’s with a 5.55. In the final against Bryan Brown, the only other driver in the 5.50s this weekend, she pounded out an almost identical 5.55 to easily turn back Brown’s trouble-plagued, up-in-smoke 6.42.

“It was a great weekend,” Whiteley said. “No Problem is out in the middle of nowhere, but it’s a nice, long track, which was great – we had a chute failure three runs in a row. Not both chutes, thank God, or there could have been a problem, but there was plenty of room to get stopped anyway. We tried so hard last year and never came home with any Wallys. Now we’ve only been to three races and we’ve already got two.”

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