As in Las Vegas, the J&A Service/YNot Racing entries of both Jim and Annie Whiteley were eliminated in the quarterfinals after strong performances in qualifying. Jim set low e.t. – as he has at every race this year – but lost a photo-finish match to rival Chris Demke in Top Alcohol Dragster, and Annie was upset in nearly as close a match by Ray Drew in Top Alcohol Funny Car.
Jim, the reigning Top Alcohol Dragster world champ, qualified No. 1 with a 5.28 and paced the field in all three sessions. He sailed through the first round with another 5.28, but lost on a holeshot to Demke in round two by the invisible margin of two-thousandths of a second, 5.26 to 5.21, after Demke stole a .05-second lead at the start.
“I hadn’t had worse that a .047 light all weekend, including all three qualifying runs, so you hate to lose like that,” said Whiteley, who lost with a .094 reaction time. “I was trying to get staged before Chris did, and I was just bumping in when he got in there first. It was a quick Tree, and I wasn’t ready.”
A 5.21, one of the quickest runs in blown-alcohol dragster history, left Whiteley just short at the finish line. “I never saw him and had no idea that I lost,” he said. “The other car has to be way out there for you to see it, and at this track, because the fuel cars were running four-wide, there’s no win-light after the finish line.”
Wife Annie fell to Drew in a match in which she and the Wisconsin driver were locked side by side for the entire quarter-mile after leaving with almost identical reaction times, .060 and .065. Drew ran a 5.56, the only run he made all weekend that was quick enough to beat her, to edge her 5.57 by a scant 13-thousandths of a second.
“I never did see him,” said Whiteley, who won the Las Vegas regional three weeks ago. “The car ran fine and I thought we really had a good chance to win this weekend, especially after what we did in qualifying.” After shaking the tires on low-5.7 runs in the first two sessions, she stormed to a 5.54 in last-shot qualifying that at the time was good for low e.t. of the meet. She then breezed through the first round with a 5.58 against New Jersey’s Duane Beers, who broke on the burnout.