Whiteleys have great weekend in Indianapolis

Jim Whiteley can cross another milestone off his drag racing bucket list.

The Grand Junction man won his first NHRA U.S. Nationals top alcohol title over the long holiday weekend in Indianapolis. He received a Wally trophy for the victory.

“It’s the biggest event of the year,” Whiteley said. “Everybody wants to win this thing.”

His wife, Annie Whiteley, took second in the top alcohol funny car class. She was just as happy for her husband.

“I was so thrilled he got it,” she said. “He was really excited. He was extremely excited. That was on his bucket list for drag racing.”

Jim qualified for the elimination rounds with the second best elapsed time. He had a time of 5.342 seconds at 269.94 mph. Rival Chris Demke had the top qualifying time of 5.330 at 269.62.

“We didn’t run real fast, but it was real muggy,” Jim said. “We didn’t have any issues. Norm Grimes and all the guys did a great job.”

Jim Whiteley easily won his first-round race against Paul Fishburn with a considerably faster reaction time of 0.067 seconds to Fishburn’s 0.192. Whiteley ran a 5.331 at 269.46.

In the second round, Randy Meyer got off to a quicker start than Whiteley, but Whiteley caught him 60 feet from the light and posted his fastest run of the weekend with a 5.328 at 270.54.

Whiteley got a head start on Aaron Olivarez in the third round to win in 5.346 at 268.65.

Jim posted his best reaction time in eliminations in the final against Demke (0.025) and won with a 5.353 at 268.81. Demke caught him at the 60-foot mark, but Whiteley finished strong. It was Whiteley’s 20th career victory and third win of the year. He is 12-5 against Demke and 4-2 in final rounds.

“We fell off a little bit the last two rounds,” Jim said. “The others did as well. It was (a little more humid). Harder to burn the water.”

He remains in first place in the Lucas Oil Points Championships Series with 668 points. Demke is second with 649.

Annie Whiteley’s weekend was nearly as good.

It was her first U.S. Nationals race of her career.

“At first, I let the hype of how big of a race it was get in my head,” she said. “I had to let it go and act like it was just another race.

“One of the rounds I started to work myself up.”

Annie qualified for the elimination round with the second best elapsed time. She ran a 5.558 at 260.06. Frank Manzo qualified first in 5.532 at 263.67.

“Annie’s car and Frank’s car was the best out there,” Jim said. “Funny car performance was better than the dragsters.”

Annie rallied from a slower start to defeat Dan Pomponio in the first round of eliminations. She ran a 5.612 at 256.65.

Annie overcame a slow start again in the second round to narrowly defeat Tony Bartone with a 5.579 at 256.80. Bartone ran a 5.678 at 256.16.

“The car did very well,” she said. “We had eight passes without shaking or smoking the tires. The guys gave me a good car to work with.”

Annie Whiteley’s reaction time improved in the semifinals, but it didn’t matter because Jay Payne jumped the light. Whiteley won with a 5.589 at 256.94.

In the finals, Manzo beat Whiteley off the light and cruised to victory in 5.562 at 261.27. Whiteley ran a 5.571 at 257.78. Manzo extended his national event final round consecutive win streak to 41 with his 11th U.S. Nationals title.

“Annie’s car was running real well,” Jim said. “She just about got him.”

Annie Whiteley is in third place in the Lucas Oil Points Championships Series with 539 points. John Lombardo is first (583) and Bartone is second (551).

The Whiteleys’ next race is Sept. 19-22 at the Texas Nationals in Dallas.


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