It wasn’t epic like 2015, when she led the national standings for months and remained in championship contention right down to the last day of the season, but 2016 ended up another solid season for Annie Whiteley’s J&A Service/YNot Racing team.
At the NHRA Finals in Pomona, Calif., Whiteley wrapped up a half-decade of Alcohol Funny Car competition with a winning record for the fourth time in five years and a fourth Top 10 finish in the national standings.
Whiteley qualified ninth in the fastest field in history with an outstanding 5.52 at more than 270 mph – a time that would have been good for the fast half of the field at any other race, ever – but got a tough first-round draw, nemesis Shane Westerfield, who was even quicker with a 5.50. Both passes came in the opening qualifying session, putting them 1-2 on the provisional grid before both were knocked down seven spots to the exact middle of the field in subsequent qualifying sessions.
Racing in the first pair of the first round as Nos. 8 and 9 qualifiers often do, Westerfield won by matching his qualifying time with another 5.50-flat. Whiteley left hard but slowed on the top end, coasting across the finish line with a smoky 5.88 at just 190 mph.
Whiteley and the J&A Service/YNot team head into the offseason with yet another Top 10 finish (8th), another winning record, 16-15 (.516), and three final-round appearances – one at a divisional event (Woodburn) and the other two at back-to-back national events, Brainerd and Indy.