Tag: vegas (Page 1 of 2)


For once at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Top Alcohol Funny Car veteran Annie Whiteley, a winner there in her rookie season of 2012 and in ’13 (at both regionals – spring and fall), ’15, and ’19, went out early. Following a surprising first-round defeat here last week at the Four-Wide Las Vegas Nationals, she was swept out of the race in the opening round for the second week in a row.

Whiteley didn’t make into the field until the last of three qualifying sessions with a 5.56 at 256 mph that positioned her well up toward the top in the No. 3 spot. She and everyone else lagged behind reigning world champion Doug Gordon, jam-packed from No. 2 (a 5.55 by three-time world champ Sean Bellemeur) to No. 8, the 5.63 of bubble qualifier Hunter Jones.

Though Whiteley, a 17-time winner in Lucas Oil Regional competition, held lane choice and a slight performance advantage, she was thwarted once again by recent nemesis Ray Martin, who had upset her in the Phoenix semifinals en route to his first victory in six years. (He and Whiteley have something in common: both are among the very, very few Top Alcohol Funny Car drivers ever to claim their first win in their first start.)

But while Whiteley has gone on to dozens of regional and national event titles since that 2012 breakthrough, Martin remained winless from the time he won the 2017 Gainesville Eastern Region opener until two months ago in Phoenix. Whiteley got the J&A Service/YNot “Shattered Glass” Camaro off the line in good shape with a .072 reaction time but dropped out around the 60-foot clocks with a shutoff 10.64. “Stupid tire shake,” she said. Martin was grateful to advance with a 5.66 – a full tenth of a second behind her qualifying time.


With a promising performance at the penultimate race of a largely forgettable 2021 season, Annie Whiteley might just have turned the corner heading into the 2022 campaign. Plagued by one thing after another from the time she left Belle Rose, La., with a victory in the season opener, 2021 was the very definition of a down year. This second-to-last weekend of the season was anything but.

From a decent 5.60 at 263 mph on her opening hit, Whiteley got only quicker every trip back under The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway arch. She posted a significantly better 5.54/264 Friday afternoon and an incrementally quicker and faster 5.53/265 in last-shot qualifying Saturday morning for the No. 6 spot in the 16-car Top Alcohol Funny Car field.

That afternoon in the first round of eliminations, as she had on almost every other run, Whiteley laid down her best pass all weekend, leaving on former national event winner Kris Hool and outrunning him to boot. Her right-down-the-groove 5.52/265 wasted his aborted 9.65 at 113 mph and improved her all-time head-to-head record against the Wyoming veteran to a tidy 6-3. It wasn’t just her quickest run of the event; it was all 16 drivers’ quickest run of the first round, including championship contenders Sean Bellemeur (5.58) and Doug Gordon (5.66).

That night, immediately after the nitro cars wrapped up qualifying for Sunday’s race, Whiteley faced quarterfinal opponent Chris Marshall, who, like her, split his time this year between the NHRA and MWDRS circuits. They left, and her car, as if pulled by some giant magnet buried under the centerline, strayed inexorably to the right until she finally relented somewhere in high gear.

“It pulled me over toward the centerline, and I had to pull it back,” Whiteley said. “Then it did it again, and I pulled it back again, but when it tried to pull me over there again in high gear I thought, ‘Nahhhh … that’s enough,’ and shut it off.” Marshall collected the round-win with a 5.56/264, while Whiteley, despite clicking it early and coasting across the stripe at only 222 mph, still recorded a 5.64.


After dropping valves in the second session of Four-Wide Nationals qualifying and more or less levelling the engine, 2016 Rookie of the Year Cory Reed took a quantum leap forward in last-shot qualifying Saturday afternoon with a 6.95 in the thin desert air of Las Vegas that propelled him all the way to the No. 6 spot – higher than he’s qualified since Chicago last June.

“We’ve been thinking we were underpowered, but we’ve been overpowered this whole time,” Reed said. “We toned it down for that last qualifying session and got it down through there for a good run. Just by adding a little timing, the bike picked up three- or four-hundredths [of a second] in the first 60 feet.”

Free to pick any of three of the four lanes for the first round of eliminations and thinking big after an outstanding qualifying performance, Reed seemed better positioned to go rounds than he’s been all year. Instead, he was gone after a single round of eliminations. It certainly wasn’t the best quad he could have hoped for – two of the other three drivers were past world champions (Jerry Savoie and Eddie Krawiec) – but Reed needed only to outrun one of them and No. 14 qualifier Freddie Camarena to advance. He sped across the finish line well ahead of Camarena, as expected, but trailed both Krawiec (6.90) and Savoie (6.94) with a disappointing 7.12.

“That was my fault,” Reed later admitted. “I over-revved 1st gear and ‘double-buttoned’ 2nd, and bam – there goes your whole run. I pulled on Jerry through the middle but ran out of room before the finish line got there. I staged super, super shallow that time, thinking, ‘If I just go green, I can win with another .95,’ but I was thinking too much up there. I had a .046 light – not terrible, but nowhere near what I’m capable of because I had death grip on it as I staged. ” ‘Relax,’ I told myself. But whenever you do that, it’s always right when the tree comes on. I almost short-shifted another gear, but I caught myself and thought, ‘Noooo, don’t do that,’ and ended up hitting the rev-limiter. I just have to get back to what I already know how to do.”


Pressed into service when Joey Gladstone’s jet-ski romp on the Colorado River days before the Toyota Nationals ended in a 70-mph tumble and a bruised tailbone, Cory Reed entered his first NHRA event since he climbed off the bike at Indy to grant his much lighter teammate the opportunity of a lifetime. In the end, it might have been better had Gladstone been healthy enough to ride.

Fit as a fiddle and skinny as a rail, Reed is still at a distinct competitive disadvantage, too tall and too heavy for his Buell-powered Team Liberty XBR. The former NHRA Rookie of the Year opened qualifying with an off-pace 7.17 at 190 mph, followed with a similar 7.13 at 190 mph Friday afternoon, and picked up about a tenth of a second Saturday but still found himself a few hundredths short of the all-6-second field after back-to-back 7.0s at 190.

Reed wound up 19th on the final qualifying sheet, a couple of ticks behind Katie Sullivan and many-time national event winner Karen Stoffer and ahead of veteran Freddie Camarena, former Division 7 bike champ Anthony Vanetti, and newcomer Maurice Allen. When the tour wraps up at the NHRA Finals in Pomona, Calif., in two weeks, Gladstone will be back on the seat, and when the 2019 season opens in Gainesville next March, Reed will be riding a lighter, faster, more competitive bike.




For once, Annie Whiteley was out early at her best track on the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series tour, The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Whiteley, whose J&A Service/YNot Racing Top Alcohol Funny Car crew has landed in the winner’s circle at nearly half the races they’ve ever entered there, inexplicably went up in smoke in the first round and was gone early.

It was the exact opposite of what had been happening all weekend – for everybody. The bump was the quickest in Alcohol Funny Car history – 5.547 seconds – and even the non-qualifiers were thundering, with couple in the 5.50s and almost everybody at least in the .60s. When eliminations commenced Sunday afternoon, more than 70% of the cars that left the starting line weren’t under power by half-track: Six of eight in the first round, three of four in the semifinals, and Brian Hough in the final were idling when they went across the finish line.

“I don’t know what happened to the race track, but it looks like nobody else does either,” said Whiteley, who qualified right near the top, No. 3 with back-to-back 5.50-flats, including one at 270.10 mph, the only run all weekend over the 270-mph mark. With everybody in the low .50s, at least, there were no easy draws in the opening round, but she lined up against the toughest one of all, newly crowned world champ Shane Westerfield, who surprisingly qualified just 6th at this event.

Whiteley got of the line on time with a solid .071 reaction time but was out of the race before she passed the Tree when the car went up in hard smoke. “We have no idea why that happened – especially here,” she said. “Who knows? Maybe it’ll be the opposite at Pomona, where we never seem to do any good, and we’ll win the whole thing.”


Steven Whiteley wrapped up the finest season of his drag racing career with a tight first-round loss at the Toyota Nationals at the fabulous Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The points leader early in the season and a contender for the J&A Service Pro Mod championship until he sat out a race late in the season to be with wife Delaina for the birth of their daughter Bayslei, Whiteley wound up seventh in the final standings after holding steady in the Top 5 almost all year.

“Fifth or seventh in the points – what does it matter if you’re not number 1?” asked Whiteley, who would’ve finished in the Top 5 either by winning one more round anywhere all year or by merely attending the one event he skipped. “Nobody will remember exactly where I ended up in the standings, but I’ll always remember where I was the day my daughter was born and nothing could ever make me miss that.”

The Vegas race was shaping up to be another solid outing for Whiteley’s YNot Racing team, from qualifying right up until high gear in the first round of eliminations. He pounded out a 5.87 to make the fast half of the program, and father Jim Whiteley, the 2016 Spring Nationals Pro Mod champ, joined him in the race day field with a 5.91. Running alongside Troy Coughlin, who clinched the championship in a thrilling second-round showdown with Mike Castellana, Whiteley clocked a 5.879 at 245.49 mph in Q2 that seeded him seventh in the field at the time. He backed it up with a nearly identical 5.883/245.05 in last-shot qualifying and entered eliminations in the No. 8 slot, pitted against the powerful turbocharged Camaro of No. 9 qualifier Harry Hruska in what theoretically should’ve been the closest race of the day.

It didn’t disappoint – the race was decided by just 8-thousandths of a second – but Whiteley had Hruska all the way until an ignition failure in high gear made his engine drop a cylinder, costing him almost 10 mph and allowing Hruska, who trailed by almost a car length at half-track, to slip by for the narrow win, 5.864/250.64 to 5.888/237.46. “No complaints,” Whiteley said. “We won our biggest race ever [March 19 at the Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla.], led the points for a while, and won a lot of rounds. All in all, this was the best year I’ve ever had.”


Cory Reed and Team Liberty’s 2017 season came to an unexpected and abrupt end at the penultimate event of the 16-race NHRA season, the Toyota Nationals in Las Vegas, where, for the first time all year, Reed failed to qualify for Pro Stock Motorcycle.

After sitting out a couple races to regroup, Reed, who had made the cut at 16 races in a row dating back to Sonoma in June 2016, was off his usual pace at the high-altitude Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, missing the 6-second zone and even the 7.0s. He opened with a 7.173 at 184.04 mph in the first qualifying session Friday afternoon, and picked up slightly to a 7.130/184.80 that evening that wound up being his best run all weekend.

“Changing cams was just too aggressive for what we were trying to do,” said Reed, the 2016 NHRA Rookie of the Year. “It just wore out the intake valve springs on the first two runs.” Saturday dawned clear and slightly cooler but the improved conditions weren’t enough to help the weakened engine in Reed’s Team Liberty machine, which fell off to disappointing times of 7.172/182.35 and 7.233/181.59

“This definitely isn’t the way we wanted to end the year, but in that situation, there wasn’t much we could do,” Reed said. “We’ll skip the Finals at Pomona – there’s really no reason to go out there – and be back better than ever next year. We knew it was going to be tough to start a brand-new team from the ground up, and it has been, but we’ve got some big things coming this off-season.”


Racing for the third time in a week at the same facility – her best track on the circuit, The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway – Annie Whiteley qualified high in a field so tough that six of the eight non-qualifiers were former national event champs.

After opening with a 5.56 at 266.79 mph, Whiteley went up in smoke immediately on her second of three qualifying attempts and improved slightly to a 5.561/267.00 mph in last-shot qualifying to lock down the No. 2 spot for good. She trailed only DJ Cox, runner-up a week earlier at the Las Vegas national event, who ran slightly quicker than her (5.541 and 5.539) on side-by-side runs for the No. 1 spot.

Paired against Nick Januik, also a former winner of the Vegas national event, in round one, Whiteley’s J&A Service/YNot team advanced with a consistent 5.57/267.00 while Januik’s Las Vegas-based car struggled for traction in a 5.85/242 loss. It got no easier from there: all four semifinalists are currently in the Top 10 in the NHRA national standings – Whiteley (8th), Doug Gordon (3rd), Shane Westerfield (7th), and Terry Ruckman (4th). Second-ranked John Lombardo was knocked out in the first round of eliminations and 2015-16 national champ Jonnie Lindberg didn’t even qualify.

The semifinals turned out to be just as brutal as expected: the E.T.s were 5.55, 5.56, 5.57, and 5.58, at speeds from 262 to 267 mph. Whiteley was the quickest (5.555) and the fastest (267.27 mph – top speed of the meet), but came out on the wrong end of a tight 5.55-5.57 match with Gordon despite a better-than-average .078 reaction time. Gordon was off the mark first with a .051, held on to win, and defeated Westerfield in the final to sweep the last two regional events of the season and secure his first Vegas wins ever.

Whiteley finishes fourth in the toughest region in the country and currently stands eighth in the national standings with one race left on the schedule. With a victory at the season-ending Finals next weekend in Pomona, Calif., she can still make the national Top 5.


The West Regional at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway – a track and an event Annie Whiteley has dominated since her rookie season in 2012 – ended in disappointment for Whiteley’s Colorado-based J&A Service/YNot team. Originally slated for Apr. 8-10 but completely washed out, the rain date was contested in the middle of the week between the Toyota Nationals at Las Vegas and the originally scheduled season-ending regional the following weekend.

Whiteley had been one of just three drivers to qualify with a run in the 5.50s back in April, a 5.59 at 263.05 mph that left her behind only No. 1 qualifier John Lombardo (5.54) and former world champ Tony Barone (5.58). The bump was a 5.67, making this one of the quickest fields in Top Alcohol Funny Car history, and three drivers – Jay Payne, Greg Hunter, and Bill Bernard – DNQed despite running in the 5.60s.

Eliminations figured to be tough – all eight qualifiers are multiple national event winners, as were two of the alternates – and they absolutely were. Whiteley was paired against her recent nemesis, many-time division champ Steve Gasparrelli, who benefited greatly from the rain delay and ran a 5.56 in pre-race testing.

On race day, Gasparrelli’s engine went away around half-track, and he faded to a 6.10 at just 158 mph. After a solid .062 reaction time, Whiteley marched to a straight-as-a-string 5.55 at 267.64 mph – top speed of the round – to win easily. She was on an even stronger run in the semifinals until her engine let go a few hundred feet short of the finish line, slowing her to a 5.60-flat at just 232 mph and letting Terry Ruckman, who swept both national events in Las Vegas this year, to slip around her for a close win.

Whiteley and the YNot team won’t have to wait long for a shot at redemption, however – the regularly scheduled season-ending regional event at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway begins in two days.


As he has at eight of past 11 races in his amazing rookie season, Cory Reed drove deep into eliminations at the NHRA Toyota Nationals, defeating, of all people, PSE/Star Racing/YNot teammate Angelle Sampey on a first-round holeshot – his specialty all year.

Reed, who reached the Pro Stock Motorcycle semifinals at Indy and St. Louis and was runner-up at Maple Grove, charged off The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway starting line with a telepathic reaction time (.009, just nine-thousandths of a second from a perfect light) to upend Sampey’s quicker 6.97 with a 6.99. She was going faster at the finish line, 191.59 mph to 190.32, but he got there first by exactly 1/30th of a second, which, at more than 190 mph, is about a bike length.

Sampey, who will join Reed on the newly formed Team Liberty Racing operation as a team manager and fellow rider in 2017, qualified higher than her young teammate with a 6.96 at 191.81 mph, good for the No. 5 spot on the 16-bike ladder. Reed was No. 12 with a 7-flat at 188 after unerringly consistent qualifying runs of 7.07/187.26, 7.00/188.86, 7.06/184.57, and 7.07/188.15.

With just a single event left in the 16-race season and six-race Countdown to the Championship playoff, Reed is holding steady in the seventh spot in the national standings and has to be considered the frontrunner for the 2016 NHRA Rookie of the Year award.

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