Filling in for Annie Whiteley, who was kept away from the track this weekend by business commitments, veteran driver Greg Hunter wheeled Whiteley’s J&A Service/YNot Racing Camaro to a career-best 5.47 at the 2017 season opener in Phoenix for the No. 1 spot in the quickest Top Alcohol Funny Car field of all time (5.55 bump).

“I didn’t know exactly how quick it was, but I knew it was the quickest, fastest run I ever made,” said Hunter, who boosted his career-best speed by a full 7 mph in his debut with the team, from 263 to 270, making him one of the fastest drivers in Alcohol Funny Car history. “We were getting ready for first round, and I had to think about it for a minute, get my head around having the fastest car in the field. I’ve never had that kind of feeling before.”

Adapting quickly to the unfamiliar confines of Whiteley’s car, Hunter got the job done in the first round with a .050 light and a wire-to-wire win over the converter car of Bill Bernard, 5.51/268 to 5.58/258. In the semifinals, another new career best – 5.478, just one-thousandth of a second quicker than the 5.479 he ran to top all qualifiers – left Hunter just short of Doug Gordon’s unbelievable 5.43 at nearly 270 mph.

“I’m not saying I know it would’ve run a 5.43, but it could’ve run better that time,” Hunter said. “When I put it on the clip, it didn’t go all the way to the rpm [crew chief] Mike [Strasburg] wanted. We were trying to leave higher, and the track would’ve held it.”

Hunter, longtime driver for the recently sidelined SynOil Top Alcohol Funny Car team, is a two-time winner on the NHRA tour, both times at the Lucas Oil Series race at Mission Raceway in Mission, B.C. “I couldn’t believe it when Annie’s team asked me if I wanted to test their car, and then I even got to race it,” he said. “I was totally honored that they would let me do it. After the race, I told them, ‘Hey, maybe I should test Annie’s new car at every national event for a about a year, just to make sure everything’s good to go.’ “