TAFC – POMONA
Annie Whiteley’s 2017 season didn’t turn out to be the one she’s always dreamed of, but in the end it was one that almost any driver in the ultra-competitive world of Top Alcohol Funny Car racing would be glad to have: multiple finals, multiple wins, and yet another Top 5 finish in the national standings.
At the season-ending AAA Finals in Pomona, Whiteley, who won two of her first three starts of 2017 and obliterated the national record with the fastest run in Top Alcohol Funny Car history (275.00 mph) along the way, finished second to John Lombardo, who was the championship runner-up again. Whiteley, who came out on the wrong end of a 5.37-5.38 showdown with Doug Gordon in the Dallas final, had the misfortune to do so again in the Pomona finale opposite Lombardo in another all-time matchup. Lombardo’s NAPA Camaro edged her J&A Service/YNot Racing Camaro in by far the best race of the entire weekend, 5.42 to her slightly quicker 5.41.
“I’ve just got to get a little better on the lights,” she said. “I worked on my practice tree all weekend, had it all set up, but it didn’t help. It’s just not the same as being in the car, on the starting line, with somebody in the other lane. On Sunday, I just forgot all about it and did a lot better.”
Whiteley was No. 1 after the first of three qualifying sessions with a tremendous 5.439 at 272.61 and again after the second session with an even better 5.414 at 273.27 mph that held up all weekend for top speed of the meet. Bumped to No. 2 by Lombardo’s 5.409 in the second-to-last pair of the final session, she mowed down one veteran after another in eliminations, beginning with Bret Williamson in the first round.
Whiteley’s 5.410/273.05 (one-thousandth of a second from low e.t.) took out Williamson’s 5.669/255.43. A 5.453/271.13 covered Jegs Allstars runner-up Chris Marshall in the quarterfinals, and a similar 5.478/270.70 in the semi’s dispatched two-time 2016 national event winner Terry Ruckman and set up the titanic final-round clash with Lombardo. “It sucked to lose the final, but you can’t feel too bad about a weekend like this,” she said. “This is the best we’ve ever done at Pomona. I don’t know what it is about this place, but it’s never liked us, but this time the car ran good all weekend.”