Top Alcohol Funny Car veteran Annie Whiteley, a winner at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in her rookie season of 2012 and in ’13 (at both regionals – spring and fall), ’15, and ’19, went out early this time. Following a surprising first-round defeat here last week at the Four-Wide Las Vegas Nationals, she disappointingly was swept out of the race in the opening round for a 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, the only driver in the 5.40s, jam-packed from No. 2 (a 5.55 by three-time world champ Sean Bellemeur) and 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 victory, his first anywhere in six years. He and Whiteley actually have something in common: both are among the very, very few Top Alcohol Funny Car drivers ever to get their first win in their first start.
But while Whiteley as gone on to dozens of regional and national event titles since that 2012 breakthrough win, Martin remained winless from the time he won the 2017 Gainesville Eastern Region opener until Phoenix a couple months ago. 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 fortunate to advance with a 5.66 – a full tenth of a second behind her qualifying time.