WORSHAM ANTICIPATES RETURN TO TEXAS MOTORPLEX DALLAS, Tex. (October 15, 1998) He's only 28 years old, but in just eight race seasons, Del Worsham has collected a lifetime of experience behind the wheel of a nitro-powered race car. With the...
WORSHAM ANTICIPATES RETURN TO TEXAS MOTORPLEX
DALLAS, Tex. (October 15, 1998) He's only 28 years old, but in just eight race seasons, Del Worsham has collected a lifetime of experience behind the wheel of a nitro-powered race car. With the end of the 22-event NHRA Winston Championship tour in sight, the driver of the Checker/Schuck's/Kragen Pontiac Firebird Funny Car returns to the Lone Star State looking for his first win of the year and an opportunity to add his name to the long list of winners at the Texas Motorplex.
Worsham's professional drag racing career began in 1991 when at age 21, he became the youngest Funny Car driver in NHRA history to win a national event at the Southern Nationals in Atlanta. He capped his rookie season with a second victory at the Summer Nationals in Englishtown and Rookie of the Year honors. He has two career wins in eight final rounds and has finished in the top 10 of the Winston standings three times (1991-92, 1996) with his best finish in 1992 when he ended the season in fourth place.
In 1998, Worsham has battled all year to remain in the Winston top 10. Currently 10th, his best showing of the year came at the Fram Route 66 Nationals in Chicago when he was runner-up to Whit Bazemore. Although the team has struggled to qualify early in the race weekend, they have made every race with the exception of Gainesville and Englishtown, and have placed their Firebird Funny Car in the top half of the field at seven of the first 19 events on the schedule. Worsham's career-best elapsed time came at the Texas Motorplex in May when he blasted into the Castrol 4-Second Club with a quarter-mile pass of 4.983 seconds.
The Revell Nationals at Texas Motorplex on October 22-25 is the 20th race on the NHRA Winston championship tour. Same day television coverage of final eliminations can be seen on TNN on Sunday, October 25, beginning at 5:30 p.m. Eastern. NHRA Today will telecast first-round coverage on TNN on Sunday, October 25, beginning at 12:30 p.m. Eastern.
We're closing in on the 1998 race season. How would you grade your year at this point of the campaign? "It started out very shaky, and since then the last two and a half months have been a whole lot better for the Checker/Schuck's/Kragen Firebird program. We're a little disappointed that we haven't won a race yet this year because we fully expected to have done so by now. I would give it a little bit below average, but at the same time, improving dramatically. Our highest point yet of the year was the runner-up finish at Chicago. We brought out a new chassis at Englishtown, failed to qualify, stuck with it, brought it to Chicago and got the runner-up finish. We tested the new chassis after the first Dallas race. We went to Phoenix to try and work some of the glitches out of the car. We ran great at Phoenix match racing there for Checker Auto Parts. Then we brought it to Englishtown, but it failed there and redeemed itself at Chicago. It's definitely been an up and down year."
What is an area of the race season that has been successful for you this year? "We started making a point of getting down the racetrack in the first round of eliminations and not beating ourselves. Once we got that figured out, and got a combination built on that, eventually the first round wins started coming to us just based on getting the car down the track. We haven't always had the fastest car, and sometimes we haven't had a faster car than our opponent, but we have been successful in getting by first round."
How would you evaluate yourself as a driver? "I just try not to make mistakes or lose races driving, and I have done that in the past. I'm pretty confident though that my better years are ahead of me. I'm 28 years old, and I'm grateful, and lucky to be able to already have eight years of racing experience. I think drag racing is probably 75% the car, and 25% the driver, and the driver needs to make sure he executes that 25% flawlessly. Since it's not a big part of the success of the overall program, it's imperative that the driver do all he can to not make any mistakes."
Where can a driver make a mistake? "Obviously reaction time is the biggest factor. And then once he gets the reaction time down, or gets off the starting line, he then has to make decisions on whether or not to pedal the run, use the brake, or try and judge when it's going to blow up and how far he can take it. I've made mistakes in all of those areas. I've red lighted. When I raced Funny Cars and the Top Fuel Dragsters, I was probably the only driver in the history of the sport that red lighted two cars in one day. I've also won on hole shots in both cars in the same day,so I've experienced both ends of the spectrum."
How do you know when you need to pedal the car? "You can feel the car quiver and shake. Even if it doesn't do that it will still smoke the tires sometimes. Good drivers can just catch it, and either salvage the run, or salvage the best e.t. that they can."
How does driving the Funny Car compare to driving the Dragsters? "The Funny Cars, as compared to when I was driving the Dragsters, and they weren't going 320 mph at the time, would pick up like 65 mph in the last eighth mile of the run. The Dragsters would pick up about 50 mph. So the Funny Cars pulled much harder on the top end, say in the last eighth mile. It was very noticeable. Today, I think the Dragsters are pulling about the same. You really have to manhandle the Funny Car. You're driving it from the time you leave the starting line to the time you pull the parachutes. You're constantly watching where you're driving to stay on top of the car. In the Dragsters, you can see where you're going. It's like a wide screen television. It's easier to drive because it's light on the front end and it doesn't take much to get it to come around to where you want it to go. Just from the sheer length of the car, it wants to go straight. The Funny Car, which is half the length of the dragster, likes to wander around. It likes to dance on you and you really have to stay with it. The nice thing about the Funny Car though is that you can feel the rear tires better so you know when it's dancing around on you and you can do a better job driving it, I think. There's another area where the driver comes into play, and that's keeping it in the groove. That's very important."
Realistically, where do you think you can end the year? "We wanted to finish eighth but with the way Dean Skuza has done lately, he's kind of put that out of reach. Ninth would be nice, but definitely in the top 10."
Dallas has a reputation for being a high horsepower race track. How will that effect the way you approach that race? "Typically, our car doesn't run 4.80s and up until now it never has. We're working on making it do that, and I asked that same question before we went into the first Dallas race. We came out of there with a No. 5 qualifier and a four-second run. Hopefully we can repeat that performance again and step up our performance to repeat what we did at the spring race."
Your father Chuck is the crew chief on your race car. How well do you two work together? "Besides being my father for the last 28 years, he's been my crew chief for the last eight years. We have the same crew chief-driver relationship that any other team has and it's important for a driver to work with the same people over the years. That's how you build trust in your team, and I have complete trust in my crew chief and my team. He's a great crew chief! He's taken a car for the first six years without a sponsor, made the top 10 three times and won races. Now we do have a sponsor, and things are starting to come together, so I think you'll see this team improve dramatically over the next few years."
What will you do in the off-season to prepare for 1999? "We've started testing a new five-disc clutch. I think as our clutch program gets better and the five-disc comes around, we'll start increasing our horsepower and hopefully the e.t. will come down. We have six runs on it so far and on one of those runs we had our best 600 foot time ever. Unfortunately, in the middle of it all, we had engine damage so we couldn't make a full run. Last year when we were building the new chassis, we had a real busy schedule. Hopefully, we'll work a little bit on a new clutch controller, more on the fuel system and we'll start testing in January. We'll work more on tuning the race car and not as much on construction. The Firebird Funny Car is a dream race car. We came from the Avenger which is difficult to see out of. The Firebird has aerodynamic advantages which makes it a great car. "
How competitive is the Funny Car class right now? "More competitive than I can ever remember it being. Definitely more so since I've been racing. It's just unreal. Your first round opponent is just as tough as your final round opponent. It's not easy, but it never was."