Worsham "Doubles Up" For $50,000 Funny Car Bonus at Indy Anderson Claims Third Consecutive U.S. Nationals Pro Stock Win INDIANAPOLIS, Sept. 5, 2005 - Chevy Funny Car driver Del Worsham collected the biggest paycheck of his career today when he...
Worsham "Doubles Up" For $50,000 Funny Car Bonus at Indy
Anderson Claims Third Consecutive U.S. Nationals Pro Stock Win
INDIANAPOLIS, Sept. 5, 2005 - Chevy Funny Car driver Del Worsham collected the biggest paycheck of his career today when he defeated Frank Pedregon in the finals of the 51st annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Indanapolis Raceway Park. The CSK Chevrolet pilot was looking to double up on his $100,000 win yesterday in the Skoal Showdown All-Star event. A Funny Car victory today would earn him an additional $50,000 bonus from NHRA for winning both the Showdown on Sunday and today's U.S. Nationals.
"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous going into today," said Worsham. "I told everybody all day long that I wasn't thinking about it (the double-up bonus) because I didn't have to since everybody else was talking about it. It was there and there was a lot of money on the line. I've been asked before what's my biggest or favorite win, and I told them Atlanta 1991 (first victory). I'm thinking right now that this weekend overtook that. This was just an amazing, amazing weekend."
After qualifying fourth for today's eliminations, Worsham defeated Jim Head in Round 1, Bob Gilbertson in Round 2, and Whit Bazemore in the semifinals to get a chance against Pedregon and a $50,000 bonus. In the finals Worsham hit the daily double with an elapsed time of 4.874 seconds at 320.05 mph to Pedregon's 4.904 e.t. at 313.07 mph.
"I've been coming here 15 years and haven't had a lot of success here, and to come here this weekend in a season that's definitely been below average for us and to win this race, this has turned around our season," Worsham said. "I wasn't too worried about Force and Hight and Capps (all defeated in the first-round). I was first looking at the guys I was racing. When we ran a 4.84 in the first round, and we were the only car in the .80s, I was thinking we had a pretty good chance of winning this thing. We had four or five hundredths on the field, and I'm driving and my knees are knocking and I feel like I'm going to throw-up, but it turned out okay. You think all the big dogs are gone, but look at Frank Pedregon. He was No. 3 qualifier and he had a great, great car this weekend. He was definitely one of the odds-on favorites coming in here, even though he hasn't been doing a whole lot lately. He had a great car, and in the final round he was not taken lightly whatsoever."
In Pro Stock, Greg Anderson's Summit Racing Pontiac GTO was the class of the field as he claimed No. 1 qualifier, set track records in qualifying for both elapsed time and speed, and then went on to win his third consecutive U.S. Nationals crown and fourth overall by defeating Richie Stevens in the finals. The two-time defending POWERade Pro Stock champ and current points leader defeated Stevens with an elapsed time of 6.718 seconds at 205.26 mph to Stevens' 6.779 e.t. at 203.98 mph. In dominating fashion, Anderson had the quickest run in each of his four rounds with elapsed times of 6.705, 6.715, 6.730, and 6.718 seconds. He now has a 135-point lead over Kurt Johnson in the ACDelco Chevy Cobalt.
"I honestly don't know why my car just takes to this racetrack," said Anderson. "Ever since I started my driving career six or seven years ago, no matter what I drove, it ran fast here. It's just a magic, magic place for me. I swear I could bring a pick-up here and it would run fast in Pro Stock. I have no idea what it is. There are just some places, and you see it in all forms of motorsports, in NASCAR, whatever, there's just some places that certain people excel at and they don't have the answer for it. I don't have the answer for it except to say it's a great facility. It's a great, great racetrack. Apparently the more racetrack we have, the more power we can put to it, and that just shows you what my guys can do. We've got a lot of power, we've got a great race car, and great equipment. The more racetrack you give us, the faster we can run. I guess that's why it falls into our plan.
"This Pontiac GTO is the best car I've ever had. Everyone in this class that has gotten one recently just loves it. It's the car of the future. It's the best I've ever had, it's the best Mark Pawuk's ever had, and everyone that's got one now is so thankful. My hat's off to Pontiac and GM Racing for developing such a great car."
Anderson came into today's eliminations with his fourth No. 1 qualifier of the season and 37th of his career. He defeated Bruce Allen in Round 1, Dave Connolly in Round 2, and Allen Johnson in Round 3 to make his eighth final-round appearance of the year. The win was the sixth of the season for Anderson and the 37th of his career.
"It's just amazing," said Anderson. "You hope that you get places like that, and you don't get more than one or two a year. And to have it happen at the U.S. Nationals at Indy - the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, the biggest race of the year, the "career-maker" - I'm a pretty lucky guy. A lot of people peak at different places, and for me to have the best setup in the world at this place, and no matter what you do you can't screw it up, I'm a lucky, lucky guy. I feel very blessed, very lucky, but I can't say enough about the job my guys do on this race car. They just absolutely blow my mind. It just goes to show you what a group of guys I've got and what a fantastic job they do. My engine guys do a fantastic job as well. They send us to the racetrack with the greatest power out here, but if you don't have the crew guys and the car to take care of it and make it go down the racetrack, you don't have much. They've got the total package, and that just makes me a very,very lucky guy. I love this place. I wish they had 20 races a year here. It feels great when you walk in the gate, it feels special and it's the best place in the world."
Debuting a new Pontiac GTO, veteran Mark Pawuk qualified for his first Pro Stock race of the season after returning from a self-imposed midseason sabbatical. He upset No. 2 qualifier Warren Johnson in Round 1, took out Rickie Smith in Round 2 before facing Stevens in the semifinals. In a tight race Stevens ran a 6.777 e.t. at 203.19 mph to Pawuk's elapsed time of 6.781 seconds and 203.34 mph.
"It's great to be back," said Pawuk. "This team's been really down, and they had been working very hard until I decided to park the car for awhile. I knew my crew knew what they were doing, but it was frustrating because everything we did with the old car, it just wouldn't run. For us to make a rebound like this after struggling for over a year is just awesome. We missed a big opportunity in qualifying on Saturday, but looking at what we did today, it actually worked out for the better. I could've been out first round or not qualified, but we got to the semis at the U.S. Nationals and that's pretty awesome.
"It's really hard to believe that a new racecar can turn a whole program around, but that's what this new Pontiac GTO has done for this team. I'm comfortable in the car, it makes clean, consistent runs, and the team has been doing a nice job tuning on it all weekend. My hat's off to Pontiac and GM Racing for this new GTO. The GM engineers did their homework and have created a great hot rod. It's well handling racecar, it's sleek, it's fast and it looks awesome. We're thinking that maybe by bringing back my old paint scheme from 1992 that we've created a little luck. I won my first race ever with this paint scheme and you never know. I'm glad to be back out here, I'm glad to have had such a good weekend, and for GM, Mr. Heater, all my associate sponsors, thanks for hanging with me. I'm looking forward to finishing out the year strong."
Dave Connolly and his Chevy Cobalt continued to show a resurgence as the early-season Pro Stock points leader advanced to the second round and showed continuous improvement throughout the race weekend. The Ohio native defeated V. Gaines in Round 1 with the third-quickest pass of the session, and then improved a notch better with the second-quickest pass in Round 2. Unfortunately he squared off against Anderson, the quickest in the second round. Anderson had an elapsed time of 6.715 seconds and 205.26 mph to Connolly's 6.762 e.t. at 203.83 mph.
"We were fast the last three runs we made," said Connolly. "We made leaps and bounds since we got here on Friday. We started making good runs with this Chevrolet, and even as bad as the track was we were still the second fastest in that last session - and that was in the right lane. I feel 10 times better going into Maple Grove (Pa.) than I felt coming into this race, and we weren't even running our best motor. We're excited about going to the next race because it looks like we're starting to run good again and that really gets everyone excited. We've cleared some big hurdles over the last couple of months, and I'm confident we can win a couple of more races before the end of the year."
Larry Dixon reached the finals in Top Fuel, defeating Scott Weis in Round 1, Cory McClenathan in Round 2, and Doug Herbert in Round 3 before facing off against defending Nationals champion Tony Schumacher in the money round. In the finals Dixon had an elapsed time of 4.521 seconds at 326.71 mph to Schumacher's tire-smoking 8.143 e.t. at 107.27 mph for his third career U.S. Nationals title.
"I'm proud, ecstatic, and everything," said Dixon. "This race is everything to anybody who drag races. To be a part of a team in the winner's circle at the U.S. Nationals is as big as winning the championship. Especially against a team like the Schumacher team that has just about dominated this event this decade. So to be able to get a win against them, I'm very proud to be a part of the team. The car picked up every round, and a lot of credit goes to (crew chief) Dick LaHaie. Right now I'm just thrilled to death we won Indy. I don't know if we can make up the ground in points. Obviously today helps the cause, but if we don't win the championship, at least we won Indy."
GM Racers also flexed their muscles in the Sportsman classes as Frank Manzo from Morganville, N.J., won Top Alcohol Funny Car in his '02 Firebird, Andy Fogle from Norway, S.C., drove his '04 Chevy Cavalier to the Super Stock crown, Peter Biondo from Mount Laurel, N.J., won Stock Eliminator in a '69 Camaro, and Bill Jackson from Mansfield, Ohio, won Super Gas in his Chevrolet.
GM Racing's Group Manager of Drag Racing, Fred Simmonds, summed up the historic day at NHRA's crown jewel race. "GM Racing had an outstanding day at the 51st annual U.S. Nationals. The great teams rose to the occasion at drag racing's premier event, and we salute all of our winning teams and drivers."
The next stop on the 23-race NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series is the 21st annual Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway in Reading, Pa., on Sept 15-18.