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At Heart, Del Worsham Is Really A Funny Guy

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, October 18 2015
Del Worsham is clawing away toward the Funny Car Championship at the Texas Metroplex this weekend. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Harold Hinson)

Del Worsham is clawing away toward the Funny Car Championship at the Texas Metroplex this weekend. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Harold Hinson)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

ENNIS, Texas – Del Worsham’s professional drag racing resume is highlighted by the entry that reads “2011 NHRA Top Fuel world champion.”

That’s a career-defining accomplishment but not the guy Worsham sees when he looks into a mirror. “I’ve always considered myself a Funny Car driver first,” Worsham said Saturday after bugnhranotesqualifying on-pole for final eliminations of the 30th annual AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals. “That’s where I started and I never really had an aspiration of even driving a dragster.”

Worsham claimed his first Funny Car pole of the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season via a Texas Motorplex track record, 1,000-foot run in 3.917-seconds at 323.58 mph. In addition, the Southern California native earned bonus points for finishing in the top three in all four qualifying sessions to bump his lead over Jack Beckman to 18 markers heading into race morning of Round 4 of the six-race Countdown to the Championship.

“Coming here and getting down the track all four runs definitely helped out the confidence,” said Worsham, who won the first two Countdown races in his DHL Toyota Camry fielded by Kalitta Motorsports. “We had two new superchargers (Saturday) that had never been on the car; both of them performed well. Looking good. I think we pretty much accomplished everything we needed to accomplish here as far as qualifying goes.”

Indeed, Worsham now has qualified in the top two during three of the last four events in a season that has seen arch-rival Beckman and crew chief Jimmy Prock of Don Schumacher Racing re-set the national elapsed time record on three occasions.

With only three national events/12 rounds of competition remaining in a 24-race season, Worsham reduced his “strategy” to a single item. “Just win the race. There’s no other

Del Worsham is a past Top Fuel champion but he has always considered himself a Funny Car guy. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Harold Hinson)

Del Worsham is a past Top Fuel champion but he has always considered himself a Funny Car guy. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Harold Hinson)

strategy,” said Worsham, who is teamed with crew chiefs Nick Boninfante and Jon Oberhofer. “Whatever’s put in front of us, you have to win. Drag racing’s a pretty basic sport _ you’ve got to get to the finish line first without red-lighting (fouling).

“I don’t think there’s much strategizing as far as if we’re going to take anybody light or less-lighter as far as positioning. It’s a very fast field. I’ve been in race-mode all weekend. I’ve been driving pretty much as hard as I could all weekend.”

Worsham will begin race day against No. 16 qualifier John Hale of Addison in Funny Car pioneer Jim Dunn’s “One Bad Texan” Dodge Charger. ESPN2 will televise one hour of qualifying coverage Sunday at 3 p.m. (CDT). The network also will air three hours of finals coverage Sunday starting at 7 p.m. (CDT).

“We’re all making the best runs we think we can,” said Worsham, 45. “All we can do is get as many points a week as we can. You have to earn every point that’s yours and hopefully when it’s all said and done and we leave Las Vegas and head to Pomona, we’ll be in a position to race for the NHRA Mello Yello Funny Car championship. That’s really my goal.” Round 5 of the Countdown will be contested at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Oct. 29-Nov. 1. The season-ender will be staged at Pomona (Calif.) Raceway Nov. 12-15.

Worsham’s pole Saturday was his 10th in Funny Car and 17th in a career that began, fittingly enough, here in 1990. “The Motorplex is in great shape,” Worsham said. “I’ve been coming here for over 25 years. I licensed here when I was 20-years-old back in September of 1990. Actually in the right lane I made all my runs and one in the left lane. What a cool place. I have video footage from, I think, this exact (press box) suite here of my first runs ever. Every now and then I get a chance to watch ‘em.”

Worsham posted his final win in the family-run Funny Car owned by his father, Chuck, in 2008. Del’s subsequent move into Top Fuel was capped by his world title with Al-Anabi Racing and master tuner Alan Johnson in 2011. Worsham and Johnson collaborated for eight victories and three runnerup finishes that season. Worsham then shocked the sport shortly after the season ended by announcing his retirement. Worsham opted to spend the 2012 season as crew chief for rising star Alexis DeJoria, his current Kalitta Funny Car teammate from Austin and driver of the hot pink Patron XO Café Incendio Toyota.

Worsham said there are no similarities to his Top Fuel title run and his current place atop the Funny Car point table. “It’s been different because in Top Fuel we were way out in front and they took all our points from us (reset for the Countdown) and we steadily declined to the point where I lost on a record run in Reading (Pa.),” Worsham said. “I was really probably at my lowest point of the whole season at this time of the year in 2011.” Worsham rebounded to win the title by 58 points, or three rounds of racing, over Spencer Massey of Fort Worth.

“Right now, I’m probably at the highest point of the season so I feel pretty good about it,” Worsham said. “I’m definitely feeling more excited about it right now _ not that I didn’t think the team in 2011 could do it because we did do it. After the Phoenix race we brought out a new car and kind of rolled the dice and it worked out for us.”

Worsham credited “Fast Jack” and Prock for forcing his team to ramp-up its performance after the NHRA’s annual summertime three-race Western Swing.

“It’s a bunch of things,” Worsham said. “Without going into great detail because we didn’t come up with all the ideas _ but we did rip a few of them off _ when Jack Beckman left Sonoma he was making those incredible runs and we all knew that we might have a problem,” Worsham said. “We thought, ‘Well it’s sea-level at Sonoma (Calif.), we’ll see what happens in Seattle (Kent, Wash). We go to Seattle and ran great there and probably should have won _ driver let ‘em down. We go to Brainerd (Minn.) and absolutely got our butts kicked. At that point we knew something has to be done here.

“From that point forward we worked pretty hard at making our car faster _ we worked on the engine, we did work on the body, we worked on the aerodynamics. We made sure that we had our downforce and drag numbers right and then we went to work on the clutch. I’m fortunate that one of my crew chiefs is Nick Boninfante, and all these clutches come from Boninfantes. Not that we get pick of the litter, because he’s really not that way. But we make sure we get what we need.”

Worsham’s resume also includes victories at The Plex in 2002 and 2004, a season in which when he won a career-best 41 rounds. When reminded that he is on-pace to join Kenny Bernstein and Gary Scelzi as the only drivers to win NHRA championships in Top Fuel and Funny Car, Worsham uncharacteristically suggested it’s time to slow down.

“A lot of people have talked about it, but it’s pretty far out,” Worsham said with a smile. “I think we better get through this weekend.”  

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, October 18 2015
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