ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. - Not many competitors can be considered a drag racing veteran at the age of 31. With 10 completed seasons to his credit, and entering his 11th year of Funny Car competition, Del Worsham is worthy of being labeled the ...
ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. - Not many competitors can be considered a drag racing veteran at the age of 31.
With 10 completed seasons to his credit, and entering his 11th year of Funny Car competition, Del Worsham is worthy of being labeled the youngest veteran on the NHRA Winston Drag Racing circuit.
Worsham, from Chino Hills, Calif., began racing at the age of 21 and became the youngest Funny Car driver to win an NHRA national event with his victory in 1991 at Atlanta. He went on to collect another win during his rookie campaign and earned the 1991 NHRA Rookie of the Year honors.
After a tumultuous eight year drought between victories (Englishtown '91-Seattle '99), Worsham and teammate Frank Pedregon formed a two-car team beginning in 2000. They now anchor one of the stronger two-car teams in the Funny Car category as both currently sit in the top 10 in the Winston standings in what is considered one of the most competitive fields in recent NHRA history.
Worsham will be seeking his fifth career victory, and second of the season in his Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird, when he competes at the 32nd annual Matco Tools SuperNationals, May 17-20, at the historic Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, N.J. The $2 million race is the eighth of 24 events in the $50 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.
"It's one of the more special places on the tour," said Worsham. "I've got a few real highs and a few real lows there. I picked up my second career win in Englishtown, back in my rookie season. This year is the 10th anniversary of that win. Then in 1994 I had the worst fire of my career and ended up spending 12 weeks in the hospital in New Jersey before I could even go home. So, I have some very vivid memories of Old Bridge Township Raceway Park. Any way you look at it, Raceway Park is special."
Worsham was somewhat thrust into the driver's seat of the 6,000 horsepower machine at an age when most young adults are trying to become acclimated to the infamous 'real world'.
"Back in 1990 I knew some day I would be a Funny Car driver," said the always-fervent Worsham. "When it happened the way it did, with my dad (Chuck) and his partner splitting up, it definitely put me about 10 years ahead of schedule. I feel very lucky and fortunate to be 31 years old and doing this and doing all I have done, plus having the amount of runs I have already under my belt. Hopefully some of those records that look pretty far out there, like John Force's 94 career wins, I can strive for since I have about 20-25 years left in this sport. I'm pretty lucky for that."
Everyone wants to be the champ. However, for nearly a decade the championship race has belonged to one man -- Force. Everyone else has been racing for second place. After Force developed the two-car team concept, others began to follow. If anyone plans on unseating Force, the 10-time Winston champ and winner of the last eight titles in a row, the road to the crown is going to go through him.
Worsham realizes the challenge ahead of the Funny Car competitors, that is why he gained confidence and momentum with his victory earlier this year in Houston when he defeated Force in the final round.
"The best thing about the win in Houston was how we did it," said Worsham. "We totally dominated the whole weekend. We qualified No. 1 for the first time in eight years, and then we plowed through four good cars to win. In the final, we beat Force in the quickest side-by-side Funny Car final in history. We didn't get lucky, we just flat beat these guys. And to beat Force like that was as big a career highlight as I've ever had. It was pretty huge, and we're ready to do it again.
"You know somewhere down the road you're going to have to race him if you want to win that event. We all have records against him (in eliminations) that are similar to my 5-31 record. He's always in the back of your mind. But with the competition that is out there this year, anyone can beat you at any time because 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 have had to beat some good cars to get there."