TAFC – BRAINERD
A cursory glance at the box score indicates that Annie Whiteley dominated Top Alcohol Funny Car at the Lucas Oil Nationals – No. 1 qualifier, low E.T., top speed, winner. 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 veteran Jay Payne, who lost the blower belt in low gear.
“We go down the track all the 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, being No. 1 at this race meant a bye run in round one, but trouble set in again when massive shake in low gear led to an aborted 12.54. 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 only other times she ever crossed the centerline came against the same opponent at this same race in 2015.)
“This had to be the strangest, most stressful win ever, other than maybe Louisiana earlier this year [where the first round was the final because only one other car showed up],” Whiteley said. “The whole time, you’re just thinking, ‘Don’t screw this up.’ It was bizarre.”