Del Worsham enters the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals as the top seed in the first race of the Countdown to the Championship NHRA Playoffs. He finished the regular season with a 110-point lead in the NHRA Full Throttle Top Fuel point standings, but after the points reset following the regular season, he now leads second-place Antron Brown by just 30 points.
Worsham has more wins (6), final rounds (8), No. 1 qualifiers (5) and low elapsed times for a weekend event (5) than any other Top Fuel driver this season.
Worsham prior to Charlotte: “I’m excited to get the Countdown (Countdown to the Championship NHRA Playoffs) started this weekend. We’ve been waiting for this all year. Everything our Al-Anabi team did in the regular season was to get ready for the Countdown; we’ve been working to position ourselves the best we can to be prepared in every way. We have built a combination of setups through the 16 races of the regular season, and we’re prepared. It’s a six-race shootout among 10 of us now, and we’ll just see where we all stand when it’s all over in November.
“I think it’s important to get off to a good start, and winning the first Countdown race at zMAX (Dragway) this weekend is the best way I can think of to get started. It’s not just another race; with only 24 rounds of racing left, every round of every race will be important, and if we can get off to a good start with a win this weekend, our confidence will be high, and I think that will help carry us through the rest of the races. I’ve raced in the Countdown before, but I’ve never started as the top seed so basically I’m new to this position; I think our entire Al-Anabi team is up to the challenge.
“Our Al-Anabi team closed the regular season with a positive so we’re confident. Being the top seed means something, and I don’t think we’ll race any differently than we did at Indianapolis, Seattle, Brainerd or Gainesville. We’ve tried to win every round and get every point we could so I can’t imagine our model would change now.
“Knowing that we have six races and no time to make up for mistakes, I believe the pressure could get a little bit more intense. I can’t imagine it’ll be more than the final round at Indy was a couple of weeks ago, but the reality is if you just go out and do the best you can do, that’s all you can give so hopefully that’ll be enough for all of us.
“It’s gratifying and exciting to think that 21 years into doing something, an opportunity like this is in front of us. I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to win a Full Throttle championship my whole career. I just want us to get to the end of the season, know that we did everything we could do to win the championship and that we didn’t leave anything on the table. If we do that, I think we’ll all be happy with the effort.”
2010 NHRA Full Throttle Top Fuel champion Larry Dixon enters the Countdown to the Championship NHRA Playoffs as the No. 4 seed. After the points reset following the regular season, he trails third-place Spencer Massey by 10 points and leads fifth-place Tony Schumacher by 10 points. Dixon trails first-place Del Worsham by just 50 points.
Dixon is the defending champion of the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals. One year ago at zMAX Dragway, Dixon was the No.4 qualifier; he defeated Dave Grubnic, Tony Schumacher, Cory McClenathan and Doug Kalitta on his way to the winner’s circle. It was Dixon’s first win at zMAX Dragway and one of his three wins in the Countdown to the Championship last year.
Dixon prior to Charlotte:
“Entering the Countdown, with the points reset, our Al-Anabi team is a lot closer to first place than we were when the regular season ended. I think this is why NHRA put this playoff format in place. They wanted to tighten the pack and give 10 people an opportunity to win a championship in each Full Throttle class. The guy who runs the best in the next six races will come out to win the championship. Obviously, Jason (crew chief Jason McCulloch) and the rest of us on the silver Al-Anabi team are hoping it’s our team.
“The Countdown doesn’t change our approach at all. Last year, we started as the top seed; this year, we’re the fourth seed. The fact of the matter is, you absolutely have to run well in these six races if you want to win the Full Throttle championship. Last year, we won three of the six races and won the championship. I think it will take a similar effort this year. You can’t back door a championship with this format. You have to run hard or be in the receiving line for the guy who does win the championship at the end of the year.
“All of us on the silver team have won and lost championships every way you can, and I think that experience certainly helps you. That experience teaches you to only worry about the things you can control, and that’s your team, your car and that’s it. There’s no need to worry about anybody else. There are 24 rounds of racing left, and you need to win more than everybody else. Whether you pick the first four or the last four doesn’t really matter; you need to do well at all of them and hope it’s enough because if you don’t, somebody else will.”