Del Worsham, one of only three NHRA drivers to become champion in both the Top Fuel and Funny Car categories, has elected to leave Kalitta Motorsports and return to his father's squad.
Worsham’s new role with his family enterprise has not yet been announced, although he’s been advising his father Chuck throughout the season and will inevitably take a more active role in the team’s future.
The 2015 Funny Car champion, who won one race and finished seventh in the 2016 title race, said: “It was a hard decision to leave a championship-caliber team such as Kalitta Motorsports. “However, there is so much unfinished business with my family’s team and I felt now is the time to do it. I am excited to see what the future holds.
“I cannot thank [team owner] Connie Kalitta enough for giving me a shot in Scott’s (Connie’s late son) car, and helping me achieve one of my ultimate goals: a Funny Car championship. The time is just right and I know this is the right decision for me and my family.
There have only been three drivers to win championships in NHRA’s Top Fuel and Funny Car nitro-powered categories: Kenny Bernstein, Gary Scelzi and Worsham who captured the Top Fuel title in 2011 for Al-Anabi Racing before taking the Funny Car trophy in 2015 with Kalitta Motorsports.
Californian Worsham, now 46, started his professional Funny Car career with his family’s team in 1990, earning the Auto Club Road to the Future rookie of the year award in 1991, when he became the youngest ever winner of a Funny Car event at the age of 21. He competed in a limited program in both nitro-powered categories ’93 through ’95 but returned to Funny Car for the 1996 season, driving his family’s flopper through to 2008, when he joined Al-Anabi’s Funny Car team.
When manager Alan Johnson decided to concentrate on Top Fuel for the 2011 season, Worsham put his concentration into winning the Top Fuel title, an achievement he duly accomplished by year’s end before joining Kalitta as a crew chief for newcomer Alexis DeJoria. His competitive fires were too much to ignore and Worsham returned to Funny Car driver’s seat the following year, earning six victories, 10 final round appearances, eight No. 1 qualifiers and 120 round wins, as well as the 2015 championship.
“Del has been a big part of the Kalitta Motorsports family for many years and we are sad to see him go,” said Jim Oberhofer, VP of operations for Kalitta Motorsports. “He gave Connie his first Funny Car championship and has been a valuable asset for [sponsors] DHL, Toyota and our entire group of supporters. We wish him the best success in his next endeavors.”
Kalitta Motorsports is understood to have aligned with a new driver for the DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car that Worsham is vacating, and the announcement will be made “at a later date.”