A totally unexpected mechanical glitch knocked Annie Whiteley out of the Northwest Nationals – right when everything was going perfectly. At venerable Seattle International Raceway, site of some of the greatest runs in Top Alcohol Funny Car history, Whiteley’s J&A Service/YNot Racing Camaro reigned atop the qualifying charts after the opening session with a strong 5.538 at 269.67 mph.

Things got only better as qualifying progressed, as Whiteley and crew chief Mike Strasburg backed up their off-the-trailer shot with equally impressive and nearly identical runs of 5.528/268.01 and 5.532/270.86. Set up perfectly for eliminations, Whiteley seemed even more sure to win when opponent Steve Gasparrelli, the eventual runner-up, managed just a 6.10 against her in the first round.

Unfortunately for Whiteley, she didn’t even make it to the Tree that time before going up in hard smoke. “The idle was too high,” she said. “The guys tried everything but couldn’t get it to come back down.” The result was an engine running way too lean and getting way too hot, which created way too much power and led, inevitably, to an up-in-smoke loss.

“The cylinder heads were 190 degrees – not 140, like they’re supposed to be,” Whiteley said. “The butterflies in the injector got ‘twisted,’ which also made the launch rpm too high – 7,600 instead of 6,800 or 7,100, like normal. It just made too much power. Lately, we just don’t have any luck. That could’ve happened on a warmup or on a qualifying run, but it had to happen right in the first round of eliminations. There’s nothing you can do about it. It’s just one more way to lose.”