Tag: Woodburn

TAFC – WOODBURN 2017

Filling in for perennial title contender Annie Whiteley for the second time this season, Greg Hunter, whose only previous start in the J&A Service/YNot Racing Camaro, four months ago in Phoenix, yielded personal best E.T.s and speeds, went the distance this time, topping one of the quickest Top Alcohol Funny Car fields in history (5.58 bump) for his third career victory and biggest ever.

“It was an honor to drive Annie’s car,” Hunter said. “The whole thing just came out of nowhere Wednesday. I got a call from [crew chief] Mike [Strasburg.] Did I want to drive her car this weekend? Hell yes I did. I got there, and an hour later I was in the car. I was a little rusty at first, a little behind the car, but by the time we ran eliminations, I felt good in there.”

Starting from the No. 2 position behind surprise No. 1 qualifier Chip Beverett, Hunter drilled opponent Nick Januik on the Tree with a .027 reaction time and obliterated the Woodburn Dragstrip speed record with a 5.52 at 272.47 mph in the first round. Another 5.52 in the semifinals took out many-time Woodburn winner Steve Gasparrelli, who had just run a career-best 5.49 at 268 mph in the previous round.

“The car doesn’t fit me quite right,” Hunter said. “You’re all twisted up in there. You’re a little tight, your foot’s not quite where you want it, and you’re like, ‘Was it like this last time?’ Then they tell you that you ran 271 mph right out of the box for a new track record, and you’re like, ‘Maybe this isn’t too bad…’ Then you go 272.3 in qualifying and 272.4 in the first round, and the next thing you know, you’re in the final.”

Waiting for him was the second-ranked driver in the nation, Doug Gordon, who uncharacteristically qualified on the bump but picked up in eliminations, including a 5.521 in the first round that matched Hunter’s time right down to the thousandth. Gordon ran just a 5.59 in the semifinals, which forced Strasburg and the YNot crew to make a decision for the final: stay with the same tuneup or go for broke.

“They’d left it alone all day,” Hunter said. “That’s the thing – when you’re running like that, running those numbers in the heat all weekend, it puts pressure on the other team, so they didn’t touch a thing. We knew Doug would step up, but how much – .56? .55?”

Gordon actually ran a 5.53, so did Hunter, and he edged Gordon’s respectable .065 reaction time with a .055 to win on a slight holeshot. “I’ve never driven any car close to as fast as this,” Hunter said. “It just hauls ass. When I put it in high gear, I thought I left him in the dust, but you look at the numbers and it was close all the way. It was just a fantastic drag race, and I hope it helps Annie win the championship.”

TAFC – WOODBURN 2016

At Woodburn Dragstrip just outside Portland, one of her best tracks on the circuit, Annie Whiteley was eliminated in the first round for the first time anywhere in nearly three months. The J&A Service/YNot team landed in Woodburn Alcohol Funny Car finals three times in a row coming into this race, with a win and a runner-up last year and a final-round loss earlier this season by the aggravating margin of just one-thousandth of a second.

This time, despite a getting off the line on time and charging past the 60-foot clocks, Whiteley was upset by No. 8 qualifier Brian Hough’s 5.57, fighting through vicious tire-shake for a disappointing 5.87 loss.

“The car did one of those weird things that makes all the guys stand there scratching their heads when we get back to the pits,” she said. “It spun the tires out past 60 foot, and it never does that. The starting line was super great, and it was a little slow early on that run, then it started shaking further out. If we would’ve had one more qualifying, that never would’ve happened.”

It started raining at 9 a.m. and didn’t stop till 9 p.m., washing out every scheduled qualifying session and generating so much rainfall that the flooded top end couldn’t be cleared for racing until 2 p.m. the following day, which meant just one thing: every tuner’s nightmare – one-shot qualifying. Whiteley and crew chief Mike Strasburg came through with an outstanding 5.53 at more than 268 mph for the No. 1 qualifying spot in the nerve-wracking do-or-die session, Whiteley’s fifth No. 1 in 12 starts this season.

TAFC – WOODBURN 2016

By the smallest possible margin – a thousandth of a second – Annie Whiteley missed her first victory of the 2016 season. At Woodburn Dragstrip just outside Portland, Ore., where Whiteley won and was runner-up in two appearances there last season, she fell to lightning-quick Terry Ruckman in the final, 5.54 to a slightly quicker 5.52, despite a better-than-average .077 reaction time.

“Ruckman is good on the Tree – always has been,” Whiteley said of her Grand Junction, Colo., neighbor, who also won the semifinals on a holeshot. “It was still a good weekend. A runner-up isn’t a win, but we still did good.”

Whiteley qualified third at what traditionally is one of the toughest eight-car Top Alcohol Funny Car fields in the country. It took a mid-5.50 to get into the top half of the show, and the bump was one car from being an all-time regional series record. Woodburn has always been a great alcohol track – it’s run by reigning Top Alcohol Dragster world champ Joey Severance, who leads the 2016 standings and won this race for the fourth year in a row.

The J&A Service YNot Racing team ran a 5.54, which put them behind only Jirka Kaplan, who ran a career-best 5.49 for the No. 1 spot and Doug Gordon, who clocked a 5.50-flat for No. 2. Whiteley made her best run of the event, a 5.50 at just short of 269 mph, to erase Sean Bellemeur’s 5.80 in the first round of eliminations and a consistent 5.52 to drop Gordon’s 5.56 in the semi’s.

“The car’s responding to what Mike’s doing again,” she said, referring to crew chief Mike Strasburg. “At the beginning of the year, they found something that made the car haul ass and really thought they were on to something, but it wasn’t a consistent setup because it didn’t respond to little changes to you have to make as the track changes. This is good run after good run for two races in a row, so I think we’re finally back to where we were.”

Back into the Top 10 in the national standings, ninth overall with more than half of her points-earning races yet to claim, Whiteley next races at Brainerd, Minn. where in 2013 she made her first final-round appearance at a national event, and then the big one, the U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis, where she’s been runner-up in two of the past three years.

TAFC – WOODBURN 2015

Annie Whiteley’s march to her first Top Alcohol Funny Car championship continued at Woodburn, where she turned in yet another final-round performance, her seventh already this season. The only problem: with two wins and a runner-up already in regional competition, where only your best three finishes count toward your national points total, her lead would increase only with a win. Qualifying No. 1 and running low e.t. of all three rounds didn’t earn her a single point because she didn’t win the final.

Veteran Steve Gasparrelli, who surprisingly hadn’t won a round all year, came to life at the suburban Portland, Ore., facility for his first victory since he won this race in 2013, edging Whiteley by a few feet in the final, 5.63 to 5.60, and snapping her Woodburn win streak at five rounds. The margin of victory was just 15-thousandths of a second.

Whiteley, who ruled the first regional in Woodburn this year with both ends of the track record and low e.t. and top speed of all three rounds of eliminations, again qualified No. 1, this time with a track-record 5.53 at 265.40 mph. She dispatched veteran Randy Parker in the first round with a solid 5.61/262 and took out Topeka winner Brian Hough in a great semifinal race, leaving first and outrunning Hough’s otherwise fine 5.61/256 with low e.t. of all of eliminations, a 5.56 at 263 mph.

Another 5.56 would’ve done the trick in the final, but Whiteley’s YNot Racing/J&A Service entry slipped to a 5.60, which left her just short of Gasparrelli’s 5.63 and slightly quicker reaction time.

The final-round appearance may not have helped Whiteley in the national championship race, but it solidified her hold on the Western Region title. She now holds a commanding 95-point lead on Doug Gordon with one race left, at the Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, which she has owned throughout her entire career, including a sweep of both the national and regional events there earlier this season.

 

TAFC – WOODBURN 2015

At Woodburn Dragstrip just outside Portland, Annie Whiteley dominated one of the toughest regional events of the season to take over first place in the Top Alcohol Funny Car national standings. “This is the first time I’ve ever been number one,” said Whiteley, who scored for the third time in six final-round appearances already this season. “I’ve been as high as second, early in the season a couple years ago, but I have to say this feels pretty great.”

It was truly one of the great performances of her career, a clean sweep: She qualified No. 1, obliterated both ends of the track record, and set low e.t. and top speed of all three rounds of eliminations.

After traveling almost 2500 miles from Chicago, where Whiteley was runner-up at the Jegs Allstars, the J&A Service/YNot team topped all qualifiers for the fifth race in a row – Denver, Norwalk, the Allstars race, Chicago, and now Woodburn. Her outstanding 5.56 at 266.42 mph held up for low e.t. and top speed of the entire event and was backed up by a pair of 5.64s in the other two qualifying sessions, making her a prohibitive favorite going into eliminations. (With a 5.59 for No. 2, championship contender Doug Gordon was the only other driver to run in the 5.50s all weekend.)

Whiteley just missed getting back in the .50s in the opening round with a 5.601 that stood as the quickest pass of all of eliminations and was more than enough to eliminate newcomer Chris Marshall, who faded with a 6.14, 224 in the first round of his Top Alcohol Funny Car career. Marshall held down the bump with a 5.75 – quicker than defending event champ Mike Doushgounian and former Woodburn winners Brian Hough and Steve Gasparrelli, who all missed the cut.

In the semifinals, Whiteley’s consistent 5.62 knocked off rival Shane Westerfield, who lost traction on the tricky, slippery surface and slowed to a 10.21. Former national event winner Jirka Kaplan gave Whiteley her toughest race of the weekend in the final, but she drove away from him on the top end with a 5.69 to win it by a car length. “That was actually the worst run we made all weekend,” Whiteley said. “The car was trying to walk all over the track and I had to short-shift just to get it down there. That guy’s always so tough on the lights; I was just glad I never saw him.”

TAFC – WOODBURN 2013

Hot off her first national event victory at the Route 66 Nationals in Chicago, Annie Whiteley suffered a surprise first-round loss at the West Regional at Woodburn Dragstrip in suburban Portland. In an upset-filled first-round in which each car from the fast half of the field was eliminated, Whiteley fell to former Division 7 champion Sean Bellemeur in a close match, 5.67 to 5.71.

“I short-shifted,” said Whiteley, always her own harshest critic. “The weather changed a ton between Saturday and Sunday and slowed everybody down. We were prepared for the track to be tough to get down, and I was ready to short-shift or pedal the car – probably too ready.”

Whiteley’s Texas J&A Service entry was within one-thousandth of a second of Bellemeur’s car at the 60-foot mark and within 9-thousandths at the quarter-track mark, but Bellemeur inched ahead for the upset win. “Looking at the computer, Roger said it was the smoothest run we’d made all weekend, so I didn’t even need to pedal, but at that moment I sure thought I did,” she said.

Whiteley qualified a strong third at what turned out to be the toughest regional event anywhere in the country this season and the second-fastest Alcohol Funny Car field of all time (5.66 bump). Husband Jim Whiteley, who has led the Top Alcohol Dragster national standings almost all season, didn’t compete at this event. Next up for the team is the Lucas Oil Nationals Aug. 16-18 in Brainerd, Minn., where last year Annie reached the first national event final of her career.

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