With the season winding down, Annie Whiteley dove into the first of back-to-back events at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, her favorite track on tour with the possible exception of Louisiana’s No Problem Raceway, where she’s never been beaten. “We couldn’t get the car to run good early here,” she said. “Our 330-foot times were off all weekend.”
Things got off to a promising start Friday afternoon when the YNot/J&A Service team cruised to a competitive 5.54 at 267.43 mph opposite outgoing world champ Sean Bellemeur. She was quicker and faster that evening but ultimately dropped a few spots in the order when others drivers dropped into the 5.40s and entered eliminations 6th on the final qualifying grid with a 5.53/267.96 (top speed of the meet to that point).
“All our E.T. was lost early,” Whiteley said, and the numbers bore it out: both 60-foot times were 2.52s. “Five guys are in the .930s [to the 60-foot mark], and we’re only in the .970s? [Crew chief] Mike [Strasburg] was shocked that the car only picked up a hundredth [of a second].” In the first round, an otherwise forgettable weekend was highlighted by a significant milestone: her 100th career round-win in national event competition. Whiteley, runner-up here in her 2012 rookie season, train-lengthed friend Steve Macklyn, at the wheel of one of her old cars, a ProStart-built ’13 Mustang, for the landmark win, 5.57/266 to 5.91/238.
The wheels came off in the quarterfinals when a perplexing electrical glitch intermittently cut the power in high gear. “It felt like my head was going to hit the dashboard twice after the 2-3 gear change,” Whiteley said. “The car stopped and then took back off, stopped and took off. It almost felt like when the rear end broke [in the first qualifying session last week] at Houston.” It didn’t matter – there was no winning that round anyway when Bellemeur unloaded low e.t. of the entire event, a 5.45 at 266 mph.