Tag: Dallas (Page 1 of 2)


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.


Annie Whiteley was doing fine at the NHRA Fall Nationals, right up until she wasn’t. Half of the quickest side-by-side race in history at the Texas Motorplex in 2017, still the fastest Top Alcohol Funny Car driver of all time (276.18 mph) in 2018, and survivor of a nasty sand-trap crash here later that year, she was gone early this time.

Heading into final qualifying, Whiteley was No. 2 on the provisional grid with a 5.51, second only to the 5.47 of eventual winner Doug Gordon. But one good run gets you only so far, and when she failed to improve in the pivotal third and final qualifying session, other teams did step up – way up.

With invaluable assistance from Sean Bellemeur’s crew chief, mechanical genius Steve Boggs, Aryan Rochon ran a career-best 5.47 for the No. 2 spot; 2017 world champ Shane Westerfield made his best run all season, another 5.47, for No. 3; and Matt Gill, who joined the ranks of national event champions earlier this year in Atlanta, slipped ahead of the J&A Service/YNot Racing team’s 5.516 and into the No. 4 position with a 5.510.

It just served to push Whiteley from No. 2 down to No. 5 and made surviving the first round of eliminations that much more unlikely a proposition. There wasn’t a single pushover in the entire field (every team in attendance ran at least a 5.50-something), but drawing perennial top-three driver Brian Hough first round called to mind what happened here two years ago: Whiteley qualified in the top half of the field, got stuck running Hough first round, and lost.

This was different – neither one of them ran any good. Hough’s crew chief, multi-talented Jonnie Lindberg, acutely aware of just how fast Whiteley’s car might run, had his car way too hopped up, and Hough stumbled downtrack to a backpedaling, off-pace 5.88. Problem was, Whiteley’s car leaped off the ground the instant she swapped feet and swung a hard left, leaving her no choice but to lift. With plenty of time to think about what might have been, she was left to idle downtrack to a 12-second time with “5.88” and the win-light shining on the scoreboard in the other lane.


At the NHRA Fall Nationals, site of some of the most unforgettable days of Jim Whiteley’s long, prolific Top Alcohol Dragster career, he qualified the highest he has all season in Pro Mod – sixth, the same spot he landed at Indy but with a run a tenth of a second quicker. Only this time, he didn’t parlay that performance into success on race day, instead being upset in the first round by No. 11 seed Chad Green.

Whiteley, who shut off to a 9.40 on his initial attempt, lowered the boom Friday night with a 5.80 at 246.39 mph that catapulted him straight to the top of the order at the time. Crew chief “Stevie Fast” Jackson kept Whiteley’s immaculate ’69 Camaro in range for the duration of the event, but the car trended in the wrong direction, slowing ever so slightly each time down the Motorplex quarter-mile. Following a competitive 5.81/245 Saturday (coincidentally against Khalid alBalooshi, who tied Whiteley’s 5.806 right to the thousandth of a second but nipped him for the No. 5 spot with a better speed), Whiteley remained consistent on his next and last attempt with a steady 5.83/246.

In the first round against Green, a former national event champ who’d never beaten the YNot/J&A Service team, Whiteley fell backward another hundredth of a second and dropped a couple mph in speed. That’s all it took. He was two-hundredths of a second quicker than Green to the 60-foot mark (.958-.979) and four-hundredths quicker to 330 (2.553-2.595), but by half-track any edge he had was long gone.

Green had him by a thousandth of a second at that point, 3.830-3.831, and his nitrous-powered 900 cubic-inch behemoth drove away from Whiteley’s blown-alcohol setup with a significant half-track speed advantage, 198 mph to 192. Whiteley’s slowest full run of the weekend, a solid but unspectacular 5.84/243, would have won all kinds of rounds this year, but Green took a huge leap forward with by far his best run of the entire weekend, 5.79/247, to win going away.


It’s all up to Joey Gladstone now. With team leader Cory Reed sidelined indefinitely by the incapacitating injuries from his horrifying Charlotte crash, Gladstone will have to be the one to do it if Reed Motorsports is to lock down its first-ever Top 5 finish in the final NHRA standings.

Robbed of what would’ve been his first career Pro Stock Motorcycle victory in the Charlotte final when the kill switch somehow became unplugged (“I can’t stop thinking about it – I still think about it every day,” he said), Gladstone now leads the charge with three races to go and the Top 5 just outside their collective grasp. Sixth in the standings coming into this race, he set the tone with an off-the-trailer 6.90 – the same number that would flash on the Texas Motorplex scoreboards after every run he made all weekend but one.

Following that pass, a forgettable 6.99/194 under the lights Friday night amid the track’s tacky Spectacle of Speed fiasco, Gladstone pounded out identical 6.90s Saturday afternoon – a 6.908 at 194 mph in the left lane and a subsequent 6.905 at 195 in the right, his quickest lap of the race. Another 6.90 in the first round of eliminations and he’d have been right back in the middle rounds because he absolutely drilled longtime nemesis Jerry Savoie on the starting line.

But at Dallas, Savoie is the last rider anyone wants to face – especially Gladstone, now 0-7 lifetime against the 2016 world champ. Savoie, who’s appeared in the final round here six years in a row and won the past two, was way, way behind Gladstone coming off the line with a .104 reaction time, but even a .023 light wasn’t enough to hold him off.

Gladstone’s Vance & Hines-powered Hayabusa had him at half-track, but at the finish line the 6.90 on the scoreboard was not in his lane but rather in Savoie’s. “I’m still a little banged up [from a crash earlier this year at a non-NHRA event in Darlington, S.C.], my friend’s all banged up, and we’re just out here doing the best we can out here,” said Gladstone, who slipped to a 7.01 in the dispiriting loss. “Cory’s a warrior. His leg’s still beat up pretty bad and it’s gonna be a long road to recovery for him, but he’ll be back out here, trust me. And after Charlotte I know I can win one of these things.”


Jim Whiteley’s never feared any driver, but of all the ones he could’ve faced in his first official round in Top Alcohol Funny Car, he drew the only one he didn’t want to race: his wife. Jim, who’s won multiple national events in a Pro Mod and multiple national championships in a Top Alcohol Dragster, prevailed. Reluctantly.

“I don’t want to beat her,” he said of wife Annie Whiteley before they lined up for the first round of the Central Regional at the Texas Motorplex in Ennis, Texas. “I don’t even want us to race each other.”

“I do,” Annie said. “I want to beat him.” She almost did. Driving the J&A Service/YNot Racing Yenko blue Camaro, she had the upper hand going in, qualifying third in a very tough eight-car field with a 5.53 at 269.36 mph (top speed of the event). Jim, who’d barely made a full quarter-mile in a Funny Car before this race, wasn’t far behind with a 5.60/258.68, good for the No. 6 spot on the ladder. He actually tied Bryan Brown right down to the thousandth of a second for the No. 5 spot, 5.607 to 5.607, but Brown won the tiebreaker with a slightly better speed, 259 mph to his 258.

Annie got off the starting line first but ran into tire-shake in low gear and Jim, driving an identical mount (one of her old cars), shot into a lead he would never relinquish. Annie continued to reel him in the length of the quarter-mile, but the lost momentum was too great to overcome and he advanced, 5.59/257 to 5.65/262.

“I kept waiting for her to come around me,” said Jim, who fell in the following round to Kyle Smith, who’d won the Funny Car Chaos event here over fuel Funny Car star Del Worsham. “I peeked over there, and she never came by. I didn’t really want to win, but I wasn’t going to just give it to her. Annie would never want that anyway.”


Sustained by a cadre of family and longtime friends at the Texas Motorplex, where she’s tasted more than her share of success in a distinguished nine-year Top Alcohol Funny Car career, Annie Whiteley absorbed a grating second-round defeat at the 2020 NHRA Fall Nationals. The YNot/J&A Service driver, part of the quickest side-by-side race in Top Alcohol Funny Car history in the 2017 final here, scorched the quarter-mile with a 5.426 at 274.00 mph under the lights Friday night – top speed of the session by nearly 6 mph and 1/250th of second from low E.T. of the entire event.

“I always liked this track,” the onetime Texan said following a booming 5.47 at 272.01 mph (top speed of that session by 2 mph) Saturday in the only other qualifying session under the stilted two-shot pandemic qualifying format. “We usually do pretty well at this race, there are usually a lot of people here, and it’s just always felt like home to me.” Entering eliminations in the No. 2 position, Whiteley, who established top speed here for the third time in the past four years, trounced surprise Winternationals winner Aryan Rochon in the opening round, 5.52/269 to the Florida driver’s distant 5.89/247.

The wheels came off in the quarterfinals when Whiteley, who won the Central Regional here last year with low e.t. and top speed of the meet, was nipped by two-time NHRA national event winner Kris Hool despite running slightly quicker, 5.50/270.27 (top speed of the round) to 5.54/260.91. In the lights the cars were separated by just 14-thousandths of a second, about five feet.

“I think this is the first time I’ve ever pouted after losing a race,” Whiteley said with a laugh. “It sucks. I just didn’t feel right up there. I’ve been holding my foot differently to get a better light, and that time I just didn’t have a good one.”


Fresh off a quarterfinal finish at the U.S. Nationals in his first start in exactly a year, Cory Reed kept going rounds at the Fall Nationals in Dallas, and that didn’t end up being the high point of the weekend for Team Liberty – far from it, actually. Teammate Joey Gladstone, racing for the first time all year, went all the way to the final for the first time in his career.

Reed came off the trailer Saturday morning with a competitive 6.92 at 194 mph and backed it up with an almost identical 6.92/195 in the only other qualifying session, eventually settling into the No. 11 spot on the eliminator ladder. Gladstone was even better, anchoring the fast half of the 16-bike field with a 6.89/195 on his only attempt.

Both drivers sailed through the first round of eliminations against heavily favored opponents, Gladstone with a winning 6.98/190 when Hector Arana Jr. red-lighted by eight-thousandths of a second and Reed with a 6.96/193 over U.S. Nationals winner and national championship contender Scotty Pollacheck’s bogging 7.00/197 in a race decided by 1/500th of a second.

In the quarterfinals, Gladstone stopped cagey veteran Michael Phillips, who had upset incoming points leader Matt Smith in the first round, with a steady 6.97/191 opposite Phillips’ slowing 9.77. One pair later, Reed, who long ago established himself as one of the better leavers in Pro Stock Motorcycle, lost on a holeshot to eventual winner Jerry Savoie, 6.97/189 to his slightly quicker 6.96/193. After a semifinal upset of 2000-01-02 world champ Angelle Sampey, who threw away what would have been a winning 6.89/195 on a red-light start, Gladstone, with nothing to lose, lined up against former world champ Jerry Savoie in the final.

The Team Liberty bike made its worst run all weekend, a 7-flat at 192 mph, and Savoie, in a Dallas final for the sixth straight year, scored with a 6.91/191, bringing to an end the finest day of Gladstone’s career. “This is pretty unbelievable,” the young rider said of his first final-round appearance in NHRA competition. “[Engine builder/crew chief] Cecil [Towner] did a great job tuning. Everybody on the team did a good job, and we’re all having a good time. I really think that’s what’s led to this success. I’m still in disbelief – we weren’t even sure we were going to come here – but in drag racing, I guess when it’s your day, it’s your day.”


In her first official outing since the COVID-19 pandemic brought NHRA drag racing to a standstill, defending event champ Annie Whiteley just missed back-to-back titles at the Texas Motorplex, dropping an ultra-close final-round bout against the toughest possible opponent, 2018-19 Top Alcohol Funny Car world champ Sean Bellemeur.

“It feels like it’s been a year since we were at the track,” Whiteley said, “and I’ll admit it – I was a little nervous. The whole routine … ‘Am I going auto remember everything?’ You don’t know till you do it. But once they started the car, it was like, ‘I got this.’ ” She definitely did, qualifying No. 2 with a 5.52 at 268.60 mph en route to yet another final-round appearance on the all-concrete Motorplex surface.

Masked like everybody else in the oppressive Texas heat, Whiteley’s YNot/J&A Service team, led my crew chief Mike Strasburg, headed to the line for the first round against former national event finalist Steve Burck. They slowed to a still-good 5.58/267, but it was more than enough to subdue Burck’s 5.70/259 and set up a semifinal showdown with early season points leader Doug Gordon.

That one went much easier than expected when Gordon got caught looking at the tach as his car inched from the pre-staged beam to the staged beam while he was trying to figure out why the throttle pedal wouldn’t move. (The blades froze up in the injector.) Gordon was still looking down when the tree came on, and Whiteley was long gone with her quickest run of the weekend to that point, a 5.51/268, for a surprisingly easy round-win, her fifth in a row at this event. “He went to bring the RPMs up and was trying to get the blades to open and didn’t realize he’d bumped in and lit the light,” she said. “When he looked up at the Tree, it was already on.”

A couple hours later in the final, Whiteley cut her best light of the day and made her best run all weekend but still fell just short of the vaunted Bellemeur/Boggs/Bartone juggernaut, which got the best of by far the best race of the entire event, 5.494 to 5.496. “The tire was just stuck to the track or we would’ve run better,” she said. “It was a good race. We both had .960 60-foot times and when I got down there – I never look over in the other lane – I was saying, ‘Come on. Did we, did we?’ We came so close to winning – I never saw him – but even though we didn’t quite win, it was still nice just to be back at the track.”


Annie Whiteley, half of the quickest side-by-side race (5.37-5.38) in Top Alcohol Funny Car history here in 2017 and victimized by the only crash of her career here last year, experienced no such drama in 2019. She ended up No. 2 on the final grid and established top speed of the meet (271.19 mph) in qualifying but, foiled by a lousy first-round draw, didn’t last long in eliminations.

After blowing the tires off immediately in first-shot qualifying Friday afternoon, Whiteley rebounded with an outstanding 5.45/271 that evening that earned the YNot Racing/J&A Service team the provisional pole. The near-perfect run (.945 in 60 feet, 2.47 to the 330-foot mark, and 3.64 at 213.81 mph at half-track) eventually was good for the No. 2 spot, which is exactly where you want to land on an 11-car ladder – usually.

Not this time. “In an 11-car field, No. 1 gets a bye run in the first round but No. 2 gets one in the semifinals, which is when you really want it because by then you’re probably running a much faster car,” Whiteley explained. Only this time, the 11th and last driver in the lineup was one of the last people she’d want to face: Brian Hough, who led the national standings for much of 2019. Overnight rains pushed back the entire schedule and cancelled last-shot qualifying Saturday morning, denying Hough and crew chief Jonnie Lindberg one last chance to atone for their aborted runs in the first two sessions.

Instead, Lindberg and Hough got their act together in the first round of eliminations – right when Whiteley was in the other lane. He got off the line first and managed a 5.56 to hold off Whiteley’s quicker 5.51 by the almost invisible margin of 16-thousandths of a second. “I was mad at myself when they told me it was a holeshot,” she said. “He kinda left me sitting there for a while, but I still should have cut a better light – it didn’t actually feel that bad. We’re going to work on the clutch pedal before Vegas – hopefully that’ll help.”


After sitting around staring at each other for days, Annie Whiteley and the J&A Service/YNot team sprang into action when the call to the lanes for the first qualifying session, finally, mercifully, went out and ended up winning the race with a dominant performance. Half of the quickest side-by-side race in Top Alcohol Funny Car history at this track a year and a half ago – 5.37-5.38 opposite Doug Gordon in the 2017 Fallnationals final – Whiteley qualified No. 1 with a 5.52 at 269.40 mph, top speed of the meet by more than 5 mph to that point.

“We all knew going in that the weather was going to be a problem this weekend,” said Whiteley, who had to jet back to Colorado in the interim to help keep J&A Service running smoothly. “They kept moving the schedule around because the weather kept changing. Originally, we were going to qualify on Friday and race on Saturday, but, naturally, everything changed, so our first qualifying run was Thursday night at 7:00, which meant that we had to be there on Wednesday to test. Then we sat and sat and sat and it would rain just enough to keep us from running. [Top Alcohol Dragster team owner] Randy [Meyer] was kind of running everything, and he’d stop at every pit when the weather let up run and ask, ‘You guys ready?’ and we’d wait till everybody was ready to run and then go up to the lanes. We all just wanted to get this done.”

When former Division 2 champion Mark Billington was unable to show for the first round of eliminations three days later for the rare Monday race day start, Whiteley singled to a 5.54/268 that almost certainly would have advanced whether the veteran Billington or anybody else had been lined up in the next lane. Qualifying No. 1 in a six-car field meant that when three cars were still around for the semifinals, she’d the one with the bye into the final. Again, she pounded out a run that nobody could’ve handled anyway, a 5.49/268 (low e.t. of the meet) that afforded the team lane choice for the final against one of the more prolific drivers in alcohol racing history – Jay Payne, who’s racked up nearly 100 national and divisional/regional wins in a career that dates back to the 1960s.

For the event title, Whiteley left on Payne and screamed down the track with the second-quickest and second-fastest run of the entire weekend, behind only her semifinal numbers. Payne, after reeling off back-to-back-to-back times of 5.54, 5.54, and 5.55, pushed too hard and smoked the hoops to a nine-second time and settled for runner-up. With a 5.497 at 269.13 mph that trailed only her own 5.495 from the semifinals and 269.40-mph qualifying charge for low E.T. and top speed of the meet, Whiteley picked up her first win of the season and the 14th divisional/regional victory of her eight-year career.

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