Tag: Funny Car

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 – 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 – LAS VEGAS REGIONAL 2 2016

Racing for the third time in a week at the same facility – her best track on the circuit, The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway – Annie Whiteley qualified high in a field so tough that six of the eight non-qualifiers were former national event champs.

After opening with a 5.56 at 266.79 mph, Whiteley went up in smoke immediately on her second of three qualifying attempts and improved slightly to a 5.561/267.00 mph in last-shot qualifying to lock down the No. 2 spot for good. She trailed only DJ Cox, runner-up a week earlier at the Las Vegas national event, who ran slightly quicker than her (5.541 and 5.539) on side-by-side runs for the No. 1 spot.

Paired against Nick Januik, also a former winner of the Vegas national event, in round one, Whiteley’s J&A Service/YNot team advanced with a consistent 5.57/267.00 while Januik’s Las Vegas-based car struggled for traction in a 5.85/242 loss. It got no easier from there: all four semifinalists are currently in the Top 10 in the NHRA national standings – Whiteley (8th), Doug Gordon (3rd), Shane Westerfield (7th), and Terry Ruckman (4th). Second-ranked John Lombardo was knocked out in the first round of eliminations and 2015-16 national champ Jonnie Lindberg didn’t even qualify.

The semifinals turned out to be just as brutal as expected: the E.T.s were 5.55, 5.56, 5.57, and 5.58, at speeds from 262 to 267 mph. Whiteley was the quickest (5.555) and the fastest (267.27 mph – top speed of the meet), but came out on the wrong end of a tight 5.55-5.57 match with Gordon despite a better-than-average .078 reaction time. Gordon was off the mark first with a .051, held on to win, and defeated Westerfield in the final to sweep the last two regional events of the season and secure his first Vegas wins ever.

Whiteley finishes fourth in the toughest region in the country and currently stands eighth in the national standings with one race left on the schedule. With a victory at the season-ending Finals next weekend in Pomona, Calif., she can still make the national Top 5.

TAFC – NORWALK 2016

Annie Whiteley qualified No. 1 for the third race in a row, but for the second straight time her J&A Service/YNot Racing team struggled off the line in the opening round of eliminations and suffered an upset loss.

“Maybe we shouldn’t qualify No. 1 anymore,” joked Whiteley, who was also No. 1 at the Summit Racing Equipment Nationals in Norwalk, Ohio, last season. “I don’t know what’s going on, I really don’t. We did about four different things to make sure the car didn’t shake the tires on that run, and it did it anyway. It’s the same thing that happened in Denver, and we still don’t know why.”

Whiteley charged off the starting line with a slight lead on rookie Chris King, a newly licensed Chicago fireman who was making his national event debut, but the lead didn’t last long. Her car went into violent shake, slowed to a troubled 12.44 at 78 mph, and King was long gone. Even though his fire bottles discharged around half-track and he had to lift, King had enough momentum to coast to an unlikely win in by far the biggest upset of the entire event.

“It’s disappointing, but what are you going to do?” Whiteley said. We’ll keep testing, and we’ll get this thing figured out.”

Qualifying, as has been the case almost all year, was a huge success. Whiteley was No. 1 for the second year in a row at this race and for the third time in a row this season, including Houston, where she reached the semifinals, and Denver.

Whiteley paced the field with a 5.531, the exact same e.t. that was good for the top spot last year, right down to the thousandth of a second. Her speed was within 0.05 mph of the 266.16-mph blast she ran for top speed last year.

Heading into the West regional at Woodburn Dragstrip just outside Portland, Ore., Whiteley is tied for 14th in the national standings, 52 points outside the Top 10.

 

LAS VEGAS NATIONAL 2016

At the Denso NHRA Nationals, Annie Whiteley didn’t do what she has so many times before at the Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway – win – but she did take a big step in the right direction after the first-round loss at the Phoenix season-opener. Whiteley, the defending Top Alcohol Funny Car champion at this event, pounded out solid runs in two of three qualifying sessions, including a 5.58 at nearly 265 mph, her best run of the season, en route to a quarterfinal finish.

“Let’s just say it was an extremely tricky track,” said Whiteley, whose YNot Racing/J&A Service team was one of just two top-half qualifiers to survive the wild, wide-open first round. “When that many people struggle to figure out the track in the same round, you know something’s up.” No. 1 qualifier John Lombardo, No. 2 qualifier and many-time Las Vegas winner Tony Bartone, and No. 3 qualifier and national points leader Doug Gordon all were gone after one round, with Bartone’s backpedaling 5.82 the best run of the bunch. Whiteley, who qualified No. 4, backpedaled to a 6.20 to hold off Chris Marshall, who had upset her in the first round of eliminations here last fall.

Whiteley was off the line first with one of the best reaction times of her career, a near-perfect .004, and got the car under control enough to pull away from Marshall’s all-over-the-track 6.37/238 with a 6.20/252. “It spun the tires early, but I didn’t know where he was,” she said. “You have to be quite a way behind to see the other car, and I never did see him, so just I kept trying.”

She had no such luck in Sunday’s second round of eliminations against eventual winner Terry Ruckman, the only other driver from the fast half of the field (No. 5) to make it out of the first round. While Whiteley fought to keep her car off the wall, Ruckman was long gone with a 5.58, his best run of the weekend and low e.t. of eliminations. Whiteley steered back into the groove, chased him down until there was no way she could catch him even if he broke, and coasted to a 6.18 at 217 mph.

“Nobody wants to lose, but Terry’s a good guy and he’d never won a national event before,” said Whiteley, who hails from the same hometown as Ruckman, Grand Junction, Colo. “All in all, it was a decent weekend. We figured out a few things with the car and my reaction times. The whole team has been working to figure out something for my lights, and I think we got it. We kept repositioning my [throttle] pedal and repositioning it, and I’m a lot more comfortable now. I don’t have to bury my foot against the can anymore, it just feels a lot better, and that has me kind of excited about the rest of the season.”

TAFC – BRAINERD 2015

At Brainerd Int’l Raceway, where three years ago Annie Whiteley faced off against The Man himself, Frank Manzo, in the first national event final of her career, her YNot/J&A Service team had its first off weekend after months and months of one great outing after another.

Hot off back-to-back victories in Woodburn, where she annihilated both ends of the track record, and Seattle, where a dominant performance ended in the third national event title of her career, Whiteley qualified fifth in the Top Alcohol Funny Car field. The weekend began with promise when she ran a 5.68 at 261.17 mph Friday followed by a strong 5.61/261.62 later that afternoon that slotted her third in the field at the time. “We were behind on the track all weekend,” she said. “It just kept sticking the tire every time we went up there.”

Whiteley, who qualified No. 1 in five of her last seven starts (including the Jegs Allstars race), shook on her final attempt and qualified outside the top three for the first time since the West Region season opener at Phoenix way back in February. That that was no problem, though – she still landed in the fast half of the field and has won races already this year from three different rungs on the eliminator ladder.

The problem came when Whiteley’s jet-black Camaro fought for traction again in the first round of eliminations against a much tougher opponent than the No. 5 qualifier usually gets: many-time national event champ Jay Payne. In that round, which was postponed by rain from late Saturday afternoon until Sunday, Whiteley, who arrived in Minnesota ranked number 1 in the national standings, left on the eventual runner-up but slowed to an 8.59 while Payne advanced with a 5.55.

“That was a bummer, definitely,” Whiteley said. “On the first qualifier, it shook the tires almost right at the hit – I don’t know how it made it – and every time we went up there after that the car made it a little further, but we never did catch up to the track.”

Despite the unexpected early exit, Whiteley’s YNot/J&A Service team enters the U.S. Nationals, the biggest race of the season, still solidly atop the Top Alcohol Funny Car standings, with almost a full-race lead (82 points) on second-place Doug Gordon.

TAFC – DENVER 2015

With a third final-round appearance in her last four races, Annie Whiteley, who had swept the Las Vegas regional and national events on back-to-back weekends, kept her bid for a Top Alcohol Funny Car national championship very much alive.

Back on the mountainside at her home track, picturesque Bandimere Speedway, Whiteley outran everybody in qualifying, which was saying a lot at this race – two-thirds of the drivers in the field were former national event winners. She qualified No. 1 with an off-the-trailer 5.80, and it’s a good thing she did – there were just two qualifying sessions, and her YNot Racing/J&A Service Camaro had to be pushed off the starting line after the burnout on her second attempt.

In the first round of eliminations, opposite Nick Januik in a matchup of the last two spring Vegas winners, Whiteley charged to low e.t. of the meet to that point, won handily, 5.76 to 5.92, and earned the semifinal bye. A consistent 5.81 on that run seemed to set her up well for the final against Lombardo, who was right there with a 5.77, but when the light turned green in the final, all hell broke loose in both lanes.

Whiteley went right up in smoke, but so did Lombardo, and the race was on. Any other up-on-smoke pass in her entire career would have meant an easy win for Lombardo, but she made him work for this one.

“I learned something that time,” she said. “I’ve always been told that if the car shakes, just stay out of it. And I always have. But that time…I don’t know. I guess that little competitive edge that you have inside you kicks in and you feel like you’ve got to keep trying because you’re in the final. So I got back on it.”

Whiteley got the car calmed down, tromped back down on the throttle and legged it to the finish line for an 8.04 at 211 mph, but Lombardo got there first with a 7.48 at just 160 mph. “That’s OK,” she said. “I learned something. I did something I didn’t know I could do. And this year’s already been a lot better than last year.”

© 2022 YNot Racing

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑