TAFC – ALLSTARS
Top Alcohol Funny Car superstar Annie Whiteley was out early at theoretically the toughest race of the season, the prestigious Jegs Allstars, held this year in conjunction with the granddaddy of them all, the U.S. Nationals.
Moved to Indianapolis from its originally scheduled June date in Chicago, the invitation-only race-within-a-race attracted the biggest names in the country – just about everybody except 2018-19 NHRA world champion Sean Bellemeur and 2020 points leader Doug Gordon. Eliminations were wedged into the already jam-packed U.S. Nationals schedule, and the Allstar drivers got just a single qualifying attempt because all eight were already seeded into the starting lineup.
Whiteley and the J&A Service/YNot Racing team made the most of their one shot with a businesslike 5.563 at 267.22 mph (top speed of the event to that point), good enough for No. 3 on the grid and a first-round matchup with former East Region champ DJ Cox. Whiteley, the defending 2019 East Region Top Alcohol Funny Car champion, owned lane choice and seemingly had the upper hand, but when she rolled in to stage, Cox uncharacteristically took several seconds to follow her into the beams, which, with the engines screaming at 7,500 rpm and her red-hot clutch getting tighter and tighter, felt like several minutes.
“I sat there for a while – 4 or 5 seconds, according to the computer,” Whiteley said. “As high as we’re leaving, it’s hard to hold it that long.” Right as she shoved down harder on the clutch pedal to keep the car from creeping through the beams for an automatic disqualification, Cox lit the fourth light and the Tree dropped. Whiteley was caught off guard and the Maryland driver opened a noticeable lead in low gear and went on to a 5.51, low e.t. of the round. She streaked to a 5.54 – quicker than any of the other six drivers ran that round – at a speed of 269.78 mph (top speed of not just that round or of the Allstars competition, but of the entire U.S. Nationals weekend), but by then the race was over.