DEL WORSHAM RETURNS TO IHRA ACTION IN MILAN First IHRA Appearance Since Capturing Last Nitro Funny Car Crown in 1992 ORANGE, Calif. (June 30, 2006) -- Ask any drag racing fan who won the last IHRA Nitro Funny Car championship, and you'll most ...
DEL WORSHAM RETURNS TO IHRA ACTION IN MILAN
First IHRA Appearance Since Capturing Last Nitro Funny Car Crown in 1992
ORANGE, Calif. (June 30, 2006) -- Ask any drag racing fan who won the last IHRA Nitro Funny Car championship, and you'll most likely get a blank look in response. Tell any fan in the Great Lakes region that Del Worsham has entered the upcoming Suzuki Motor City Nationals in Milan, Mich., and you'll probably raise a smile, if not create a new ticket sale. What you most certainly will not provoke is the connection between those two points. Del Worsham is, believe it or not, still the reigning IHRA Nitro Funny Car champ, having won the last such crown awarded, back in 1992, and he is indeed entered to run at Milan Dragway July 7 - 9, with his team's popular Murray's Discount Auto Chevy Monte Carlo body atop his 330 mph Funny Car.
Worsham entered all five IHRA Funny Car national events in '92, and took home wins at both Bristol and Rochester. Those victories, combined with a pair of runner-up finishes and one first-round defeat, were enough to lock up the championship for the young California racer, who had made his NHRA debut the year before. When Funny Cars were dropped from IHRA competition at the conclusion of that campaign, Worsham concentrated on his NHRA career, where he has now won 21 trophies and become one of the most popular Funny Car drivers on the tour.
"We almost swept the deck that year, because we easily could have won the two races where we were runner-up," Worsham said. "The one bad race we had was up at Epping, where we lost in the first round, but we won two and almost won two others. I was young then, just 22, and I wasn't very adept at dealing with things like TV interviews or having to give speeches. Having to accept the championship trophy, and give a short speech about it, was more traumatic for me than any lap I've ever run in a Funny Car.
"A lot of time has passed since then, and we've all come a long way. I'd be more than happy to accept the winner's trophy in Milan on Sunday if we're lucky enough to get that far, and I'll talk to all the media people until they run out of questions, no matter how well we run. But, I was just a kid back in '92, and if you ever see any of the pictures from the championship award you'll know what I mean. I was just a kid, with a bad suit."
Still a fixture on the NHRA tour, where he has finished as high as No. 2 in the points and has been a top ten finisher for the last seven seasons, Worsham was intrigued by the IHRA's decision to bring Knoll Gas -- Torco Racing Fuels Pro Nitro Funny Cars back into the action, but originally had no plans to participate.
"I thought it was a great move, but mostly for the guys who are over there running all the races," he said. "It's gotten so tough on the NHRA side, with all the multi-car teams, including ours, that a lot of the single-car guys were really having a hard time. For Jack Wyatt, Dale Creasy, Vinny Arcadi, and guys like that, I knew this was a great opportunity, and the racing would be great. At the time, though, our sponsors at Checker, Schuck's, Kragen had no interest in us taking on any of the IHRA races. The IHRA markets didn't match up with where their stores are located, and they didn't want to tax our resources any more than we were already, running all 23 NHRA events.
"Then, CSK purchased a line of auto parts stores in the midwest, the Murray's Discount Auto chain, and they have stores in Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan," added Worsham. "We came up with this 'Madman Murray' body idea, and the fans have really responded to it at the three NHRA races where we've had Phil Burkart or Jeff Arend drive it. We asked them if they wanted us to take it to Milan, with me behind the wheel, to spread the brand advertising into Michigan, and they got behind the idea. Now, we're not only racing the Murray's car, we're also going to be doing some corporate hospitality. We're looking forward to a great weekend."
Worsham's decision to enter the Milan event was also based on his dedication and constant desire to improve. Having not yet won an event on the 2006 NHRA tour, and currently sitting 9th in points, Worsham has been updating his tune-up and his equipment throughout the season, which can be difficult in the heat of battle. With few opportunities to test, he thought the best course of action was to find a race somewhere, and Milan was a perfect fit.
"We're working on lots of things right now, trying to get better and set ourselves up for the years ahead," Worsham said. "It's not easy to change major components, or change tune-up approaches, while you're racing, but our schedule is pretty full right now and there aren't many chances to go test, lap after lap, on a professionally prepped track. The IHRA race fit the bill perfectly. We'll continue to work on our combination, we'll be racing on a good track that's been prepped well, and the whole safety crew will be there. In the midst of all of that, we'll actually be racing in front of fans, which is way more rewarding for the driver and the crew than testing is.
"I'm not making any predictions, because I've raced with all these other guys and they're all capable of taking you out, but we're going up there to run as well as we can. The first step will be to make the field, and if we can do that we'll do what we can to win rounds. I suspect there will be a few other NHRA regulars there, since we're in a two-week hole in our schedule, so the level of competition is going to be tough. That's the way we like it."
It was tough back in 1992, when Worsham vanquished them all to take the championship crown. It will, no doubt, be tough in 2006, when Worsham will take on the IHRA regulars and a few other NHRA cross-overs. Del Worsham, just like "Madman Murray," has never shied away from tough.