TAFC – BRAINERD
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.”