Tag: winner


Even a cursory glance at the box score would indicate that Annie Whiteley dominated Top Alcohol Funny Car at the Lucas Oil Nationals – winner, No. 1 qualifier, low E.T., and top speed of the meet. A deeper dive into the round-by-round results shows otherwise: just two representative runs – a 5.56 in last-shot qualifying for the pole position and an identical 5.56 in the final round to overwhelm Jay Payne, who lost the blower belt in low gear.

“We go down the track time after time and don’t win,” Whiteley said. “Here, we only make two good runs all weekend and win the race.” A rare trip over the centerline in the second qualifying session left the YNot team seventh of seven in attendance because she had to shut off early in the opening session. In the final session, a dead ignition on fire-up, a broken blower belt on the burnout, or a broken reverser would’ve been disastrous, but she steamed to a 5.562 that held up all weekend for low e.t.

Because of the odd number of entries, qualifying No. 1 at this race meant a bye run first round, but trouble set in again when massive shake in low gear ended in a shut-off 12-second cruise. Whiteley coasted silently across the finish line at 70 mph and advanced straight to the semifinals, where her car veered for the centerline again, this time with opponent Scott McVey well behind her with a blown-up engine.

“We were a little light on the front end, and when I hit that bump the front end bounced and moved me way over by the centerline,” she said. “I wasn’t sure if I crossed it or not, and if he hadn’t blown up he might’ve gotten around me.” (Ironically, one of the few times she’s ever crossed the centerline came against McVey at this same event in 2015.)

“This had to be the strangest, most stressful win ever, other than maybe Louisiana earlier this year [where the first round essentially was the final because only one other car was in attendance],” Whiteley said. “The whole time, you’re just thinking, ‘Don’t screw this up.’ It was bizarre, but I guess it doesn’t matter. We won.”


In her first appearance ever at No Problem Raceway, Annie Whiteley built off the momentum from her breakthrough Gatornationals win last month, her biggest in years, with a second victory in just three 2017 starts, dominating from the outset and leaving with low e.t., top speed, and both ends of the track record.

“The car was smooth every run,” Whiteley said. “The guys were chasing the heat and the track, and they really stayed on top of it. They kept adjusting the tire pressure and timing because the track was getting hotter but basically left it alone and the car kept repeating. The left lane was good and the right was a little iffy so you really wanted to keep lane choice, and we had it every time.”

Deadly consistency – a 5.57, 5.55, and 5.56 in eliminations, all three at exactly 268 mph – carried the J&A Service/YNot Racing team to the title in tiny Belle Rose, La., about an hour north of New Orleans. Whiteley set not just low e.t. and top speed but low e.t. and top speed of all three rounds of eliminations after shattering the track e.t. and speed marks with a 5.508 at 268.80 mph in qualifying.

After a solid 5.57 on the first-round single she earned by qualifying No. 1, Whiteley took out two-time national event winner Kris Hool in the semi’s with a 5.55. In the final against Bryan Brown, the only other driver in the 5.50s this weekend, she pounded out an almost identical 5.55 to easily turn back Brown’s trouble-plagued, up-in-smoke 6.42.

“It was a great weekend,” Whiteley said. “No Problem is out in the middle of nowhere, but it’s a nice, long track, which was great – we had a chute failure three runs in a row. Not both chutes, thank God, or there could have been a problem, but there was plenty of room to get stopped anyway. We tried so hard last year and never came home with any Wallys. Now we’ve only been to three races and we’ve already got two.”


With the quickest, fastest, most consistent runs of his Pro Mod career – a barrage of 5.70s and low 5.80s at more than 250 mph – Steven Whiteley stopped many-time winner Mike Castellana and crew chief Frank Manzo in the Gatornationals final for his biggest victory to date. “It’s just an unbelievable feeling,” said Whiteley, who watched his mom, Annie Whiteley, win Top Alcohol Funny Car one pair ahead of him. “When she won, it really sent the pressure on me through the roof. I thought, ‘Now, I have to win this thing.’ ”

With his best reaction time and best E.T. of the weekend and the fastest speed of his career, he did. For father Jim Whiteley, who also qualified for the Pro Mod field in Gainesville, the dual wins surpassed anything he ever personally accomplished on the quarter-mile. “I’m overwhelmed,” said Jim, who won dozens of races and multiple NHRA championships as a Top Alcohol Dragster driver. “This means more than any race I ever won. If none of us ever wins again, this weekend makes my whole drag racing career worthwhile.”

Steven, a two-time No. 1 qualifier in NHRA competition (in Charlotte in 2014 and in St. Louis last year), started at the top, leading a giant field of qualifiers after the first session with a 5.80-flat. He eventually dipped to the No. 5 spot with that e.t., but when others faltered in eliminations, Whiteley got only stronger, cutting better lights as the day wore on and never losing his consistency.

“The car was perfect all weekend, and I owe it all to my team,” Whiteley said of the J&A Service/YNot team, led by crew chief Jeff Perley. “I could not be more appreciative of what they do, day after day, week after week. Testing at Bradenton went really well, the whole team has been working well together, and I just had a good feeling coming into this race.”

Whiteley topped one major event winner after another in eliminations, starting with door-car legend Todd Tutterow in the opening round, 5.79/252 to 5.86/247. Former series champion Mike Janis slipped into Whiteley’s lane in the quarterfinals, but the second-generation driver was long gone for a 5.80/251 win that set up a titanic semifinal clash with two-time NHRA Pro Mod champ Troy Coughlin, who had beaten Brazilian Sidnei Frigo in the semifinals in the quickest race in Pro Mod history, 5.75 to 5.72.

“Now, that was nerve-wracking,” Whiteley said of the Coughlin matchup. “It’s not just that he was coming off a 5.75 – he was coming off a .00 light, too.” Coughlin, runner-up for the 2016 championship, just missed another .00 reaction time with a telepathic .012, but Whiteley had him covered by several car lengths at the finish line, 5.82/251 to Coughlin’s 6.21/197.

The final was over early. Castellana blew the tires off early, and Whiteley was home free. Anything would have done, but he punctuated the victory with his quickest and fastest run ever in NHRA trim, a 5.791 at 253.52 mph. “The best part of it was the way Castellana was to me,” Whiteley said of the many-time NHRA winner. “He could not have been any cooler, and that’s something I’ll always remember.”

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