Tag: national


Mired in the toughest stretch of her eight-year career just as the year winds down, Annie Whiteley bowed out early at the Dodge NHRA Nationals. In her penultimate start of 2019, at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where she’s enjoyed more success than at any other track (and more than any active Top Alcohol Funny Car has had anywhere on the circuit), Whiteley was out after a single round of eliminations.

Qualifying got off to a rough start when the YNot/J&A Service team, Las Vegas winners in both regional (many times) and national competition, blasted the tires just off the line for an abbreviated 9.12 at 119 mph and followed with an equally disappointing 8.75 at 109. Closing in on another Top 5 finish in the national standings but perilously close to not even qualifying, Whiteley and crew chief Mike Strasburg came through Saturday morning in last-shot qualifying.

Stuck in the first pair of that high-pressure session because of how far down on the grid she was at that point, Whiteley stepped up dramatically when it mattered most with a clutch 5.47 at more than 270 mph to skyrocket to the No. 5 spot. That should have assured her an imminently winnable first-round match with an opponent well down in the final order, No. 12. Instead, as has been the case a disturbingly disproportionate amount of the time this year – especially lately – she had to race someone who never should have qualified that low, pre-race favorite Chris Marshall, who, in three qualifying attempts, mustered a best of just 5.59.

In the first pair of the first round under the lights Saturday night, Whiteley drilled Marshall, consistently one of the best leavers in Top Alcohol Funny Car, with a reaction time literally twice as good as his – .076 to .152 – but blew the tires off and looked on helplessly as he sped away to a winning 5.46/265 while she coasted to a losing 13.54. “The guys had a whole new clutch pedal for me for this weekend and I really felt good up there,” she said. “I feel a lot more comfortable now, like I’m more in control, and I knew I had a good light, but when you go up in smoke in low gear there’s not a whole lot you can do.”


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.”

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