TAFC – LAS VEGAS
Admittedly anxious at the prospect of making her first run since crashing off the end of the Texas Motorplex shutdown area Oct. 7, Annie Whiteley swapped feet at the Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. “I was nervous as hell on that first qualifying run,” she said. “I had two weeks to think about it, but after that first one, it was over. I was fine for the second run and totally comfortable for the third one.”
It was a solid effort not just for Whiteley but for her team of mechanics, led by crew chief Mike Strasburg, who were unfamiliar with a completely different car than the one they’d run the past two years. “People think this is the body off Lombardo’s car,” said Whiteley of the Camaro they borrowed from the two-time championship runner-up team of Rick Jackson and driver John Lombardo. “It’s not the body; it’s that whole car – the body, the chassis, the computer, everything except the motor, transmission, and pedals out of my car. It’s actually the same car [John] Lombardo was driving when I raced him last year in the final round at Pomona.”
As such, it’s a car built for a driver a foot taller than Whiteley. “It’s different, I can tell you that,” she said. “And when it’s not your car, you don’t fit in there right, and you definitely don’t want to hurt anything because it’s not yours.” The team stuffed a bunch of padding in the seat so she could see over the injector, and by the third run she was used to it – not 100% at home, but at least comfortable enough to compete.
Eliminations didn’t last long when Whiteley came out on the wrong end of an extremely close first-round matchup with Brian Hough, who had never beaten the YNot team in national event competition. 3-0 against him lifetime, Whiteley ran four-thousandths of a second slower than the Oregon driver in the eighth and last pair of the first round for a disappointing 5.538 to 5.542 loss. “It was good just to be back out here,” she said, summing up the weekend. “We’ll get a little closer with this thing next weekend at the Vegas regional and at the Finals at Pomona and be back with a brand-new car for 2019 at the Winternationals.”