Tag: seattle

TAFC – SEATTLE 2019

2015 Northwest Nationals Top Alcohol Funny Car champion Annie Whiteley’s shot at a second Seattle title this year unraveled early when she was sidelined in a first-round loss to 2001 event winner Doug Gordon. She may have qualified No. 1 and lost to the slowest qualifier in the field, but Gordon, like Whiteley a perennial championship contender, can never be considered an upset first-round winner, no matter where he qualifies or who’s in the opposite lane.

If anything, it was more of a 50/50 proposition. “If you qualify No. 1, Doug Gordon is not who you ever expect to run first round,” said Whiteley, who entered eliminations ranked No. 1 for the second time in a row and the fourth time in 10 starts this year. “I mean, who’d ever think he’d be 12th in a 12-car field?” When the Tree flashed green, Whiteley’s YNot/J&A Service Camaro blew the tires off at the hit but not because the team overreacted to the tougher-than-anticipated opening round opponent and had her car too hopped up. Seeded No. 1 with a 5.47 at more than 271 mph (low E.T. and top speed of the entire event until Gordon ran one-thousandth of a second quicker and 0.28 MPH faster in the following round), Whiteley pedaled to a 6.73/194 that fell short of Gordon’s backpedaling 6.34 at 265 mph. It was her only first-round loss all year.

“No way we thought it was going to go up in smoke there,” said Whiteley, who, despite the aggravating setback is still in position for another Top 5. “We backed it down for that run – with the hotter conditions we would have no matter who we were racing. [Crew chief] Mike [Strasburg] richened the barrel valve and lowered the launch RPM 400 RPM. What else are you going to do? It was totally backed off and still it didn’t go anywhere. A 1.13 60-foot time?’ It’s tough. You know they struggled in qualifying, but you know they’re going to figure it out – you just don’t know when. When he won with a 6.30-something, I think we were more just bummed than disgusted or mad.”

TAFC – SEATTLE 2018

Perennial Top 5 driver Annie Whiteley, who won three times and reached at least the semifinals six straight times to open the season, fell in the first round for the third time in four races when traction problems set in at the Northwest Nationals. A winner in Belle Rose and Denver on the regional trail and in Charlotte on the national tour, she qualified a season-low sixth in Seattle despite an excellent 5.52, then barely made it to the Christmas Tree in the first round before she had to lift.

After an aborted 9.73 at 90 mph on her first of just two qualifying attempts for this race, Whiteley’s J&A Service/YNot Yenko Camaro tiptoed off the starting line with a relatively tame .970 60-foot time in last-shot qualifying, charged through the middle of the course, flew through the half-track clocks at more than 212 mph, and clocked a 5.52 at just short of 270 mph. It moved her from the last spot in the field to the middle of the pack and set up a tough first-round match with Alaska’s Ray Martin, driver of 2014 world champ Steve Harker’s “International Incident” Camaro.

Whiteley was off like a shot with one of her best reaction times of the season, .048, but was out of it early when Martin, who last year won in his Top Alcohol Funny Car debut just as Whiteley had in her 2012 rookie season, negotiated the quarter-mile with a shake-free 5.57. She tromped back on the throttle and chase but clicked it off in high gear when it was clear that she wouldn’t be getting around Martin and coasted to a disappointing 6.33 at 216 mph. “I have no idea why the car would do something that,” said Whiteley, a past finalist at this event. “It’s not like the guys were trying anything crazy – we qualified in the fast half and had lane choice. It just goes to show that with these cars, you never know.”

TAFC – SEATTLE 2016

Running better than she ever has – including four straight runs in the mid- to low-5.40s – defending Northwest Nationals champ Annie Whiteley reached the semifinals and continued her long climb back up the national Top Alcohol Funny Car standings.

In last-shot qualifying, the J&A Service YNot Racing team, just No. 7 in the field at the time with a usually great but suddenly ordinary 5.53, unloaded their all-time-best, 5.42, one of the greatest runs in class history, for the No. 1 spot. The speed, 271.13 mph was also a career best, and the 5.42 was good for not just low e.t. of the meet but also a new track E.T. record.

“I had no idea that it was a .42, but I could tell it was a good one just by how early the shift-light came on in both gears,” Whiteley said. “When I got out of the car down at the top end, it seemed like Funny Car driver that pulled off the end of the track had just set a career-best. It was ‘Candy Land’ for everybody. The air was really, really good and the track was perfect.

It took an unbelievable 5.51 to make the fast half of the field, and every car but one was at least in the mid-5.50s. Awarded a first-round bye run for being the No. 1 qualifier in a field with an odd number of cars, Whiteley ran a 5.45 – one of three mid-5.40s in eliminations – that would’ve crushed whatever hapless No. 16 qualifier had pulled into opposite lane had there been a full field.

Pitted against three-time Seattle winner Brian Hough in the quarterfinals, Whiteley ran a 5.46 to trounce Hough’s otherwise excellent 5.49 in the kind of race that typified the entire event. Another 5.45 in the semifinals, one of the last pairs completed before the skies finally opened for good and washed out the remainder of the event, wasn’t quite enough. The J&A/YNot team came out on the wrong side of a race nobody deserved to lose when opponent Nick Januik matched his career-best with an identical 5.45 and punctuated it with a .016 light.

“It’s too bad,” said Whiteley, who’d never lost to Januik before. “He had a .091 and a .092 the two rounds prior, but he pulled it out, so you have to give him credit.” Now seventh in the national standings, with fewer races claimed than nine of the other top 10, Whiteley and crew head to Brainerd, Minn, where in her rookie year she reached her first national event final.

TAFC – SEATTLE 2015

Already solidly in first place atop the Top Alcohol Funny Car standings when she got to Seattle, Annie Whiteley solidified her increasingly likely bid for a national championship with a dominant performance at the Northwest Nationals.

After back-to-back-to-back 5.51s in the preliminary rounds, Whiteley whipped nemesis Shane Westerfield, who lost traction right off the starting line, with a consistent 5.54 in the final. “My guys have given me an unbelievable car, and I just try to do my job and not screw up on the lights,” Whiteley modestly said of her J&A Service/YNot team, led by crew chief Mike Strasburg. “The car just runs smooth every time.”

Coming off a storybook weekend at Woodburn, where she qualified No. 1 and set both ends of the track record en route to her third win of the season, Whiteley annihilated the track record in Seattle qualifying with a 267.59-mph blast, the fastest of her career. She held down the No. 1 qualifying position until the last pair of the final session, when Mike Doushgounian edged her 5.502 with a 5.489.

Starting eliminations from the No. 2 spot on the grid, Whiteley, who had qualified No. 1 at five races in a row, mowed down the opposition with one spectacular run after another, starting with a 5.512 at 265.90 mph Saturday afternoon against rookie Chris Marshall, who veered crossed the centerline. Sunday in round two, her best run of eliminations, a 5.510 at 267.48 mph, dispatched former national event winner Jirka Kaplan, who got sideways in low gear, fell behind, and lost with a 6.32.

In the semifinals, Whiteley put a tenth on two-time Seattle winner Clint Thompson at the Tree with a .038 reaction time and drove away for another train-length win, 5.518, 265.90 to an up-in-smoke 15.88. Whiteley then won the final in another walkover against Westerfield, who had been 5-0 against her until this weekend, including a final-round win last year in Houston,

With four wins and seven final-round appearances already in 2015, Whiteley holds a 62-point lead over second-place Doug Gordon, who lost to Westerfield in the semi’s at Seattle. Next up for the J&A Service/YNot team is the Lucas Oil Nationals Aug. 21-23 in Brainerd, Minn.

 

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