BAYTOWN, Texas - Del Worsham scored his fourth career NHRA Funny Car victory at Sunday's O'Reilly Nationals presented by Pennzoil at Houston Raceway Park, the fourth race of the NHRA's 50th anniversary season. Mike Dunn, Warren Johnson, Angelle...
BAYTOWN, Texas - Del Worsham scored his fourth career NHRA Funny Car victory at Sunday's O'Reilly Nationals presented by Pennzoil at Houston Raceway Park, the fourth race of the NHRA's 50th anniversary season.
Mike Dunn, Warren Johnson, Angelle Savoie and Randy Daniels also won their respective categories at the $1.8 million race, the fourth of 24 races in the $50 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.
Worsham's first victory of the season came when he gained the starting line advantage and blasted down the track in his Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird in 4.852 seconds at 311.63 mph as final round opponent John Force's Castrol GTX Ford Mustang couldn't catch Worsham, finishing at 4.859 at 303.63.
Worsham's win in Houston is his first since the 1999 Prolong Northwest Nationals in Seattle and the first of his career from the top qualifying position. After waiting eight years between wins in the 1990's and over a year and a half from his last win to today's, Worsham understands the hard work it takes to get to the pinnacle in drag racing. "I don't think anyone within 15,000 miles is having a better day than me right now," Worsham said. "We could definitely have not asked for anything more. Our sponsors, our race car and our crew just did a great job."
Worsham's Pontiac Firebird used four runs in the four second range to defeat Tony Bartone, Dean Skuza, Gary Densham and finalist John Force for his first win of the 2001 season. "Out of all the four wins I've had, this is the first time in the final round I have just flat out ran someone like John Force," said Worsham, the 1991 NHRA Winston Rookie of the year. "It's unbelievable."
Despite losing in the final to Worsham, Force took over first place in the NHRA Winston Funny Car standings with 246 points.
Dunn won his 21st career national event as his Yankee dragster covered the quarter-mile distance in 4.603 at 324.98 to defeat Larry Dixon who was late on the starting line despite running a quicker 4.579 at 319.45.
After sitting out the majority if the 2000 NHRA Winston Drag Racing Season, Dunn likes his chances of winning his first NHRA Winston Top Fuel championship. "I've always wanted to win a championship and now we have the budget," said Dunn, a former Funny Car driver in the 1980's. "We have got all the parts, we have the personnel, but you still have to put it all together. I said earlier this year, the only thing we don't have are excuses. We've got it all to make it happen and we're going to go for it." During Friday qualifying, Dunn recorded the fasted speed in NHRA history with a blast at 331.61 mph. Even though Dunn failed to back the run up within the required 1% to set a national speed record, Dunn is pleased with his performance in Houston. "My crew asked me this morning if I want the record and I said that I would rather have the win," said Dunn, the son of legendary driver and team owner Jim Dunn. "Records are great but they don't pay anything. They are just bragging rights." Dunn defeated Chris Karamesines, Darrell Russell and Doug Kalitta before beating Dixon in the final. The win propelled Dunn into first place in the NHRA Winston Top Fuel standings with 273 points.
Johnson earned his 83rd career Pro Stock victory with a pass of 6.844 at 200.98, edging out fellow Pontiac Grand Am driver Mark Pawuk and his pass of 6.886 at 200.02.
Johnson traded in his GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac Firebird he drove last year for a 2001 Pontiac Grand Am at the season opener in Pomona in 2001. Johnson has been learning how to tune it on the fly. "We're not the only team out there that learning," said Johnson, a five-time NHRA Winston Pro Stock Champion. "It's a case where we all have to get acclimated to the characteristics of these cars. They are certainly better race cars than the Firebirds and Chevrolet Camaros which we had last year which were great race cars. It's just that these are that much better."
Johnson earned round wins over Greg Anderson, Jim Yates and Bruce Allen en route to his final round showdown with Pawuk. The win in Houston raises Johnson's career win total to 83, just two wins shy of tying the Pro Stock record of 85 wins set by Bob Glidden. Johnson extended his NHRA Winston Pro Stock points lead to 310, 76 points ahead of his son Kurt Johnson. Savoie picked up her first win of the season and the 16th of her career in the Pro Stock Motorcycle category. Savoie's Team Winston Suzuki was quicker than Matt Hines' motorcycle, running a 7.184 at 183.72 to a 7.203 at 187.26 in an all Suzuki final.
Despite qualifying fourth in the order, Savoie and team owner/crew chief George Bryce entered eliminations a tenth of a second behind the elite motorcycles in the field. "During qualifying, George hadn't tuned the bike to the weather," said Savoie, the defending NHRA Winston Pro Stock Motorcycle champion. "Last night I had decided to go back to what I used to do when I first started racing and beat them with a slower engine."
Savoie, formerly known as Angelle Seeling who married Nicky Savoie in February, met Ron Ayers, Geno Scali, and Antron Brown before defeating Matt Hines in the final round. Despite entering the O'Reilly Nationals as the defending Winston champion, Savoie feels more pressure this year than last. "All season long I told myself that the pressure was off." Savoie said. "I didn't think I would be even the slightest bit nervous up there. This was the hardest race I have ever had because of the pressure."
Daniels won his ninth Pro Stock Truck title and second of the season, holding off fellow Chevy S-10 driver Bob Panella for the victory. Daniels covered the distance in 7.439 at 180.94, edging Panella, who posted a run of 7.414 at 181.67.
With the NHRA Pro Stock Truck competition as tight as it has been in the early 2001 season, Daniels feels fortunate to have won the first two events. "There is about 11 or 12 different engine builders out here this weekend," said Daniels. "If they had been in my position at the right place at the right time, they could have won this race also."
Daniels outran Victor Cagnazzi, Jeff Naiser, and Jeff Gracia before beating Panella on a hole shot in the final. Daniels leaves Houston in the NHRA Winston points lead, 67 over second place Greg Stanfield. Although Stanfield fell to Bob Panella in the semi-finals, his win in the quarter finals set an elapsed time national record. Stanfield's 7.396 against Mike Corvo was the quickest Pro Stock Truck pass in NHRA history and the first in the 7.30's. Panella's speed in qualifying, 182.40 mph set a national speed record.
The next NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series event is the second annual SummitRacing.com Nationals, April 5-8 at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Las Vegas.