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.”