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Incoming West Region points leaders Chris Demke and Annie Whiteley swept the Napa Auto Parts Challenge event Sept. 7-9 at Woodburn Dragstrip, Demke scoring for the second time this season in regional competition and Whiteley for the fourth.
Whiteley's husband, Jim, was neck and neck with Demke in the Top Alcohol Dragster final until his car banged the blower near the 1,000-foot mark, slowing him to a 5.41 at just 217 mph.
"I heard the boom," Demke said. "I heard him right alongside me the whole way, and then I heard the bang. For a second, I thought it was my car and expected to slow and lose. It took a little bit to realize that I wasn't slowing down."
It was the first time all year that Whiteley, who scored in Las Vegas, Denver, and Tulsa, has lost a round in regional competition. He's led the national standings since early in the season and, because of the new 7/3 national/regional format for the alcohol cars this year, he can earn no more points towards the national title at a regional race.
"This weekend was all about trying to win a regional championship," Demke said. "Jim's already won three – he can't improve nationally – but we both want to win the regional championship, too, so here we are."
Whiteley qualified No. 1 with a 5.28 and ran another 5.28 on a first-round single and a 5.29 against track co-owner and defending event champ Joey Severance in the semi's, all at 271 mph. Demke was second in qualifying with a 5.31, shook the tires in the first round, and got lane choice for the final with a 5.28 in the semifinals. He pulled away from Whiteley on the top end with a track record of 5.27.