NHRA POWERade SERIES DRIVER TRANSCRIPT: DEL WORSHAM The youngest veteran driver in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series, Del Worsham, 35, enjoyed a career-best performance in 2004. The popular driver from Southern California powered his red ...
NHRA POWERade SERIES DRIVER TRANSCRIPT: DEL WORSHAM
The youngest veteran driver in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series, Del Worsham, 35, enjoyed a career-best performance in 2004. The popular driver from Southern California powered his red Checker Schuck's Kragen Chevy Monte Carlo to a second place finish in the POWERade Series Funny Car point standings last year. He raced to five victories, which tied John Force for the most in the category for the season. After opening the 2005 season with a second round loss two weeks ago in Pomona, Calif., Worsham hopes to get back on the winning track this weekend at the Checker Schuck's Kragen NHRA Nationals at Firebird International Raceway near Phoenix. Worsham is the defending winner of the event, a race he has won two times in the last three seasons. In the interview below, Worsham discusses his potential for earning his first NHRA POWERade World Championship, his stellar '04 campaign and why he's been so good at Phoenix.
Q: Does your career-best performance last year give you great confidence this season as you close in on that first POWERade Series world championship?
DEL WORSHAM: If I've been plagued by one thing my whole career, it's that nagging feeling that all the good stuff can go away at any minute. We make one bad lap and I get the "uh oh, we're stupid now" thing. Yes, we have a lot of confidence, and yes I think we can contend for the championship, but at no time do I feel it will be anything but the biggest challenge of my life. The other really hard part of envisioning the championship is the fact John Force has won so many. It's not like there's a different champion every year, so why not us? Someone is going to have to be Superman to knock the John Force Racing team off the top.
Q: Being in the championship hunt the last few years, what knowledge have you gained for what it is ultimately going to take to earn the No. 1 spot in the category?
WORSHAM: It's really all about getting the most out of your bad weekends, and limiting how many of those bad weekends you have. Last year, Force and I both had five wins, but he beat me by 300 or so points. You learn by watching him, and he rarely has a really bad weekend. Even when he's not winning races, he's going to the final round or the semifinal. You have to consistently get out of first round to have any chance.
Q: What was your personal favorite highlight from '04?
WORSHAM: Well, there were so many of them and they all came in order. Winning our sponsor's race, the Checker Schuck's Kragen Nationals started it off. Then we won the next race, the Mac Tools Gatornationals. The Gators are one of the majors on the tour, and I'd never won there before. I'd also never won two races in a row before, so that was all very big. Being in first place for seven races was a career highlight. Winning two in a row later on, when we won Dallas and Chicago, was really great. But I think the biggest highlight was the amazingly tight race for second place with Gary Scelzi. It was down to one or two points for the last two races, then we exactly tied for qualifying E.T. in Pomona but I got the nod on speed, which was another highlight because we didn't have a history of being a big speed team. To beat Gary under all that pressure and all that drama, and earn the No. 2 we have on the car, our best finish ever, was probably the best highlight, but maybe only because it was the last one.
Q: You are one of the youngest veteran drivers in NHRA history. Do you feel like you are really starting to come into your own as one of the marquee stars of the circuit?
WORSHAM: Yeah, I guess I don't feel like a kid anymore. Man, the years really do fly by, and there are times I'm still feeling like the same kid who was practically scared of all this stuff back in 1991. I think I've been at about the top of my form as a driver for a few years now, but you better keep getting better or you don't have a shot at the glory. Force is amazing, he really is a great driver, so you have to keep pushing yourself.
Q: You have had great success at Firebird International Raceway in the last few seasons, what is the key to racing well there?
WORSHAM: That's a great question and I'm not sure what the answer is. We've been able to negotiate the length of the track a lot on race day, but we've had a horrible time qualifying. Some of the greatest stress of my career has come during qualifying there, but we seem to get over it and then just relax and trust ourselves on Sunday. Twice in the last three years, that worked.
Q: What offers the most pressure for you: trying to win a race that's sponsored by CSK, or the first round of the U.S. Nationals?
WORSHAM: Two completely different things, but I'd say the answer is a hybrid of the two. The most pressure is trying to win round one of the CSK Nationals. If you win round one, at the worst you've had a decent day. I don't think the CSK guys or our guys expect us to win this race, we never expect to win. We hope to, and there are times I've felt like we should, but I never ever expect to. Winning the U.S. Nationals would be awesome, but since I never have I really don't feel a lot of pressure there. Some day maybe we'll win it, and when we do it will be huge.
Q: The driver of your second team car, Winternationals runner-up Phil Burkart, seems to blend in well with your team. What do you think he adds to the mix?
WORSHAM: He's a fine driver, and he's getting better. He's been around so long people don't realize he really hadn't made that many laps before he joined us. He made more laps in 2004 than in his whole career up to that point, so he's still getting better. What's best about Phil is his attitude. He's just one of the guys. He is very easy to get along with, but he has a burning desire to win.
Q: How would you rate the current competition level in Funny Car?
WORSHAM: The best it's ever been, period. Not only can you say that all 16 cars can win on Sunday, but there are also probably two or three cars that could have won, but didn't make the (starting lineup in qualifying). It's scary how many good cars there are.
Q: With all of the talented multi-car teams out there, can an independent team still be competitive?
WORSHAM: Yeah, you better believe it. It's harder, I think, but brains and budget and a good driver will get you the points. What you really need is the superior brains, because a single car team has to do it one run at a time, while we're getting twice the data or trying new things on one of our cars. Force and Schumacher are another step ahead of us, with three cars.
Q: Of your 19 career victories, which one do you savor most?
WORSHAM: Wow, that's a tough one. I savor them all, and remember them all. The first one, of course, is big. That was Atlanta 1991, but we were such underdogs and I was so young, I didn't savor it. I was stressed out thinking I had to face the TV cameras. The two Checker Schuck's Kragen wins are very special, and I did take the time to savor them. The Gatornationals win last year was a big one. They're all great.
Q: After qualifying 14th and losing in the second round at Pomona, what has your team been working on to prepare for Phoenix?
WORSHAM: We've gone through all of our stuff and gotten as ready as we can be. We got hurt in Pomona by weird gremlins, stuff that wasn't tune-up related. We tested well in pre-season, so we know we're fast, but we had those gremlins and we were lucky to qualify. I know we're still smart, and we have good stuff here, so we just have to trust ourselves.
Q: What are your performance predictions for Funny Car in 2005?
WORSHAM: I don't make performance predictions, because I'm always wrong, but it's going to be a great year. I'll just say this: the runs that were career best headline runs just last year, seem to be routine for a lot of teams now. It's going to be that way all year. My prediction is that we'll see great performance all year, by a very wide variety of teams.