Bristol: Del Worsham interview

<pre> Del Worsham NHRA Teleconference Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird </pre> BRISTOL, Tenn., April 26, 2001 - It's still early in the season but Del Worsham is confident that his team has hit on the right combination...

<pre> Del Worsham NHRA Teleconference Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird </pre>

BRISTOL, Tenn., April 26, 2001 - It's still early in the season but Del Worsham is confident that his team has hit on the right combination on the Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird Funny Car. After the completion of five events the 31-year-old California native has fought his way to sixth place in the Winston points standings with an impressive victory last month at the O'Reilly Nationals in Houston. Worsham heads into this week's Mac Tools NHRA Nationals at Bristol Dragway with a 5-4 win-loss record during final eliminations and just 62 points, or a little over three rounds of competition, out of second place.

The inaugural Mac Tools NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals on April 27 - 29 is the next stop on the 24-race NHRA Winston championship tour. Del Worsham was a guest on the NHRA teleconference held in conjunction with this event.

< b>How competitive is the Funny Car division this year?

"In the 10 years I've been racing I've seen these kinds of fields in Pro Stock, and we've seen what they've gone through, and Funny Car has become similar to what they have. In the past we would come to a race, and be pretty sure we could get qualified and hopefully go a couple of rounds. But now when you come to a race you're just hoping you can qualify before you even begin thinking about race day."

Do you feel fortunate that you got that win early in the year at Houston?

"Yeah I do. But like anybody else I'm a little greedy and would love for it to happen again."

Does your IHRA win at Bristol help you coming into this race?

"Sure it does. It was in 1992 when we won at Bristol. Any time you go to a track that you've won at before, even though they have made huge modifications, it still makes you feel good. We ran great here last year. I think we would've done better but during the second round we had mechanical failure."

How much does racing at a facility affect your performance there?

"Quite a bit. Last year we came to this race after we had crashed in Norwalk, Ohio. So I wasn't really feeling very well and couldn't enjoy it. This year when I get there I'm even going to try to get in some golf and enjoy the track a little more. You come to try and go the fastest down the track. Once you get in that car you don't pay attention to anything else that's happening around you. We're excited about this race - it's a great place. They've done some major changes to the track since the 1990s so it should be a great event."

What is the advantage of having a multi-car team?

"The biggest thing is you get twice as many runs on the track before race day. The Pontiac Firebirds that Frankie (Pedregon) and I drive are identical racecars although they don't always have the same setups. We can go into a qualifying round with him running with a little more clutch, and me with a little less, to see how much the track will take before the car will smoke the tires. The two-car team also helps when you have one car that loses, you then have twice the crew working on the other car. The other advantage is on race day. If I run before him or vice versa, if what the first car did didn't work we can go to the other car and make a quick change so it won't do the same thing. It's paid off. I can look back and see the changes we've made at the last minute after watching Frankie's car or vice versa."

How's it feel to be one of the youngest drivers to win a national event?

"Back in 1990 I knew some day I would be a Funny Car driver. When it happened the way it did with my dad and his partner splitting up, it definitely put me about 10 years ahead of schedule. I was building a local gasoline Chevy car with old parts we had. I was going to get my license in that and hopefully get my shot in the big leagues and race Funny Cars. I feel very lucky and fortunate to be 31 years old, and doing this and doing all I've done, plus having the amount of runs already under my belt. Hopefully some of those records that look pretty far out there like John Force's 91 wins, I can strive for since I have about 20-25 years left in this sport. I'm pretty lucky for that."

Do you still feel like you have momentum after the Houston race?

"After Houston I felt our Firebird was one of the fastest cars out there in the class, and when we left Gainesville Saturday night I felt like we were just running with the pack again. So I surprised everybody by waking them up at 9 a.m. and telling them we're testing for two days. We made four runs, and did some things that were kind of off the wall, heading towards different directions to see if we could pick it up. The first day we just basically got it down the track. We had all about given up until about four o'clock on Monday when we made a few more changes and had some amazing results. I don' t know if we'll use the stuff we found this weekend because I think it's about four or five runs from being right and something we can race with. We're working on changing this car and getting it back to the form we had in Houston."

Has the car surprised you?

"Well, not really. If you tracked all our runs up to the Houston race you could kind of see that it was heading to that run of 4.81. Since then it' s dropped a little bit. It went 319 mph in Las Vegas which showed promise. We need to change a few things. It's starting to warm up more now so it's going to take a different tune-up."

For a Funny Car driver, at what age do you think you'll be in your prime?

"I hope at 31. It's hard to say. You look at guys like John Force who's been having great success in his late 40s and early 50s. So you can run this sport into the later years of your life, which is something for me to look forward to. You just don't know. There are guys that are young that have great success and then there are guys like John Force. I think it's just a team effort, having the right funding and a great team. It doesn't really appear to matter if you are 25 or 45."

Do you see any changes in your operation over the next few years?

"I don't see any major changes. We're going to be a two-car team for the next two or three years. Hopefully I'll be able to keep everyone with me that's on the payroll from the tuner to the crew chief. I think that's been part of the success we've already had this year. Everyone has stayed with me. No one left after last year. I think we'll try and keep everyone together - that's our goal right now."

Are there any particular tracks you look forward to?

"My favorite race of the year is in Brainerd, Minnesota. I'm pretty eager to get back there. We lost last year on a hole shot to John Force. It's my favorite track and we've had pretty good luck there. I'm excited to go back and get some revenge on that track. I'm also eager to get back to Atlanta. That's where we got our first win in 1991, so it's always fun to go back there. I think the nighttime race in Pomona in July is going to be fun too. We race there in the winter and fall, and there's always threatening skies and rain. Being there in July it should be really nice, plus all my friends and family will be there which makes it even more fun."

What's it like going to some of the newer racetracks?

"You just kind of don't know about the newer tracks as much as you do the ones you've been to several years in a row. I'm sure it's going to be great as long as it's not over 100 degrees outside. NHRA does a pretty good job at getting the tracks in shape and competitive."

Are you happy with the setup you have now?

"Very happy. We changed the combination around last year and this was another advantage of the two-car team. At Houston last year we changed some parts on Frankie's Firebird, made a few runs and had a huge explosion. But it showed us some things that we definitely wanted to run this year. It appears we have plenty of horsepower in reserve right now with the blower overdrives that we ran last year and the engine timing left that we ran last year, so we're going to stick with that the rest of this year."

Do you just worry about beating Force or are there others?

"You know somewhere down the road you're going to have to race him if you want to win that race. We all have similar records against him that are similar to my 5 and 31. He's always in the back of your mind. But with the competition there is this year anyone can beat you at any time. There are a lot of good cars out there. Actually if you get to race John Force, that probably means you're doing pretty good because you had to race some good cars to get there."

Do you see yourself always staying in Funny Car?

"I definitely see myself staying in Funny Car for as long as I can think of right now. Early in my career I raced Top Fuel a little bit with Roger Prim. At the time there was probably more competition over there, but as time has gone on it's gotten competitive in Funny Car. Our sponsors like the Funny Car and they like the advertising they get. Pontiac is one of our main sponsors and probably wouldn't sponsor us if we were in a dragster. So this is definitely where we're going to stay."

-GM Racing

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Del Worsham , John Force