Joliet: Pontiac Racing wrap-up

Worsham upsets Force in Classic Funny Car battle JOLIET, Ill., June 3, 2001 - Ten-time Funny Car champ John Force is usually a marked man when he comes to an NHRA national event, and this weekend at the 4th annual Lucas Oil Products NHRA ...

Worsham upsets Force in Classic Funny Car battle

JOLIET, Ill., June 3, 2001 - Ten-time Funny Car champ John Force is usually a marked man when he comes to an NHRA national event, and this weekend at the 4th annual Lucas Oil Products NHRA Nationals it was Pontiac Firebird Funny Car driver Del Worsham who had him in his cross hairs. In a classic side-by-side battle in the Funny Car finals, Worsham edged Force by .006 seconds for his second win of the season. Jim Yates' runner-up finish in his Pontiac Grand Am moved him into the points lead in Pro Stock, and Jeff Gracia also posted GMC Sonoma's first-ever win in racing this weekend when he won the Holley Pro Stock Truck Dominator Duel on Saturday.

Ideal weather conditions at the state-of-the-art Route 66 Raceway produced record runs in all the classes and Funny Car was no exception. Force lowered the national elapsed-time record to 4.763 seconds as he qualified his Mustang in the No. 1 position, and Worsham qualified his Mountain Dew/Checker-Schuck's-Kragen Pontiac Firebird No. 6 in the fastest Funny Car field in NHRA history.

Worsham's crew worked overtime as they overcame a major engine explosion on his final qualifying pass that launched his lime green Pontiac Firebird body 30 feet into the air.

"We were lucky it threw the body off because it allowed the fire to go out," Worsham said. "The car was on a huge pass, 4.70 stuff, and was just driving right down there and then, KABOOM! If the body would've stayed on, that would've been seriously nasty, but I'm sure it looked worse than it actually was."

Worsham and the Checker-Schuck's-Kragen team recovered to defeat Pontiac stablemate Bruce Sarver in the first round, teammate Frank Pedregon in Round 2, and Jim Epler in the semifinals to set up a rematch with Force. Worsham bested Force earlier this year in the Houston finals for his first win of the season. In the finals Worsham used a .482-to-.494 holeshot advantage to beat Force with an elapsed time of 4.811 seconds at

"The car ran great and in the final round, we just stepped up a little bit and that's what we needed," Worsham said. "It means a little more when you beat Force and I'd be lying to you if I said it wasn't. He's the champ. You know he's a heck of a competitor and you saw the fight he put up there in the finals. It was just our day today."

Yates also helped Pontiac make a final-round appearance as he took his Spitfire/Peak Pontiac Grand Am to his fourth final round of the season and moved back into the Pro Stock points lead. The Alexandria, Va., native also reached the finals at Las Vegas, Bristol and Atlanta, capturing his lone win of the season at the Advance Auto Parts NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway.

Yates qualified No. 2 with a 6.844 seconds run at 200.44 mph, falling just short of his final-round opponent, Mike Edwards. Edwards qualified No. 1 with a track-record elapsed time of 6.842 seconds at 200.50 mph. In Round 1 Yates defeated Richie Stevens, and he got past V. Gaines in Round 2 before defeating George Marnell in the semifinals. In the finals he ran a 6.888 e.t. at 200.11 mph and fell short of Mike Edwards run of 6.848 seconds at 200.23 mph in a Chevrolet Cavalier.

"The track kept changing and the lanes were way different left to right," Yates said. "We finally got over in that left lane and made a great qualifying run and qualified No. 2, and I thought at that point we had a chance to get to the finals. But give credit to Mike Edwards, he was strong all day. We lost lane choice after our run in the semi's and that hurt us in the finals. But to make it to the finals and take over the points lead, that's a tremendous boost for this team. That's four finals for us this year, so that's not a bad year so far."

Mike Dunn set a new national speed record in Top Fuel qualifying when he made a pass in the Gwynn/Steinbrenner/Yankees GMC Dragster at 330.55 mph. In eliminations Dunn defeated Joe Hartley in Round 1 before losing to eventual runner-up Gary Scelzi in Round 2.

Jeff Gracia recorded GMC Sonoma's first-ever win in any form of professional racing when he won Saturday's Holley Pro Stock Truck Dominator Duel and its $20,000 first prize. He defeated Bart Price in the first round of today's eliminations, but in Round 2 in a rematch of yesterday's Dominator Duel finals in Round 2, the roles were reversed and Gracia lost to Todd Patterson in a Dodge.

"It's quite an accomplishment winning the Holley Dominator Duel," Gracia said. "That was just a good ol' fashioned race between manufacturers, GMC Sonoma over Dodge. And it's great that we got GMC Sonoma its first win. Hopefully we'll need some more of these GMC winner's circle hats before the year's out."

The next stop on the NHRA Winston Drag Racing tour is the 37th annual Pontiac Excitement NHRA Nationals presented by Summit Racing at National Trail Raceway in Columbus, Ohio, on June 14-17. <pre> Pro Stock Truck Race Winner: Scott Perin (Chevy S-10) 8.117ET/121.65MPH Pro Stock Truck Runner-Up: Greg Stanfield (Chevy S-10) Foul Pro Stock Truck Top Qualifier: Scott Perin (Chevy S-10) 7.423ET (track record)/181.08MPH

Pro Stock Truck Top 10: 1. Greg Stanfield (Chevy S-10) 2. Bob Panella Jr. (Chevy S-10) 3. Randy Daniels (Chevy S-10) 4. Jeff Gracia (GMC Sonoma) 5. Scott Perin (Chevy S-10) 6. Don Smith (Chevy S-10) 7. Todd Patterson (Dodge Dakota) 8. Jeff Naiser (Chevy S-10) 9. Mike Coughlin (Chevy S-10) 10. Victor Cagnazzi (Chevy S-10)

Pro Stock Race Winner: Mike Edwards  (Chevy Cavalier) 6.848ET/200.23MPH
Pro Stock Runner-Up:  Jim Yates (Pontiac Grand Am) 6.888ET/200.11MPH
Pontiac Pro Stock semifinalists:  Johnson, Yates, Marnell
Pro Stock Top Qualifier:  Mike Edwards (Cavalier) 6.842ET/200.50MPH

Pro Stock Top 10: 1. Jim Yates (Pontiac Grand Am) 2. Mark Pawuk (Pontiac Grand Am) 3. Warren Johnson (Pontiac Grand Am) 4. Jeg Coughlin Jr. (Cavalier) 5. Mike Edwards (Cavalier) 6. Kurt Johnson (Cavalier) 7. Ron Krisher (Cavalier) 8. Mark Osborne (Dodge R/T) 9. Bruce Allen (Pontiac Grand Am) 10. Richie Stevens (Grand Am)

Funny Car Winner: Del Worsham (Pontiac Firebird) 4.811ET/314.39MPH holeshot Funny Car Runner-Up: John Force (Mustang) 4.805ET/321.19MPH Pontiac Funny Car semifinalists: Bazemore, Worsham Funny Car Top Qualifier: John Force 4.763ET(national record)/320.05MPH

Funny Car Top 10: 1.John Force (Mustang) 2. Ron Capps (Chevy Camaro) 3. Bruce Sarver (Pontiac Firebird) 4. Del Worsham (Pontiac Firebird) 5. Whit Bazemore (Pontiac Firebird) 6. Frank Pedregon (Pontiac Firebird) 7. Tony Pedregon (Ford Mustang) 8. Gary Densham (Mustang) 9. Dean Skuza (Dodge) 10. Tommy Johnson Jr. (Camaro)

Top Fuel Winner: Kenny Bernstein 4.546ET/32.81MPH Top Fuel Runner-Up: Gary Scelzi 7.197ET/109.25MPH Top Fuel Top Qualifier: Kenny Bernstein 4.477ET(national record)/330.88MPH

Top Fuel Top 10: 1. Kenny Bernstein 2. Larry Dixon 3. Mike Dunn 4. Doug Kalitta 5. Gary Scelzi 6. Darrell Russell 7. Tony Schumacher 8. Doug Herbert 9. David Grubnic 10. Rhonda Hartman-Smith

-Pontiac Racing-

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Doug Herbert , Bruce Sarver , Frank Pedregon , Jeg Coughlin , Bob Panella , Larry Dixon , Mike Dunn , Kenny Bernstein , Mark Pawuk , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Jim Epler , Tony Pedregon , Dean Skuza , Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , John Force , Rhonda Hartman-Smith , Tony Schumacher , Gary Scelzi , Doug Kalitta , Ron Krisher , Todd Patterson , Jeff Gracia , Randy Daniels , Mike Coughlin , David Grubnic , Gary Densham , Greg Stanfield , Bruce Allen , George Marnell , Joe Hartley , Mike Edwards , Tommy Johnson Jr.