Phoenix: Event final report

Worsham, Schumacher, Allen Take Wins at Checker Schuck's Kragen Nationals CHANDLER, Ariz. -- Del Worsham denied John Force his 100th career victory in a dramatic finish during Sunday's Checker Schuck's Kragen Nationals at Firebird International...

Worsham, Schumacher, Allen Take Wins at Checker Schuck's Kragen Nationals

CHANDLER, Ariz. -- Del Worsham denied John Force his 100th career victory in a dramatic finish during Sunday's Checker Schuck's Kragen Nationals at Firebird International Raceway.

Tony Schumacher and Bruce Allen also were winners of the $1.8 million race, the second of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

Worsham drove a Pontiac Firebird inked in the event sponsor's colors to a 4.940 second run at 312.86 mph, to keep Force's Castrol GTX Ford Mustang out of the winner's circle. Force's car lost traction at mid-track and limped to the finish in 7.749 at 114.25.

"I didn't want to be known as the guy who gave John his 100th win," said an excited Worsham. "We all know it's eventually going to happen and I might still be the guy, but we're glad we won this one today. He's beat us all by six-inches over the years and I was determined that it wasn't going to happen today."

Worsham put an end to Force's quest for the milestone win after the 11-time Funny Car champ escaped with photo-finishes in early round meetings with rivals Whit Bazemore, Ron Capps and Tommy Johnson Jr. In the final, however, Worsham's machine powered down the track with a smooth, consistent pass, leaving Force's tire-smoking machine in his wake.

"I've had plenty of wins and I'll get more, but today just wasn't my day," said a disappointed Force, who defeated Worsham in the final at the season-opener at Pomona, Calif. "It's kinda like it was destiny. The kid was due."

Force, who after nine years of trying won his first NHRA race in 1987, has claimed 98 victories in the 14 years since. He has logged a remarkable run of 11 Funny Car championships and has become drag racing's most recognizable figure and an ambassador for all of motorsports.

It was the eighth career victory for Worsham, and his first at FIR in front of a large contingent of supporters from his Phoenix-based sponsor, Checker Schuck's Kragen.

"This win means everything," Worsham said. "To do it here at Checker Schuck's Kragen's home track is really special. We've been trying to give them a win here since they came on board with us. I'm glad we were finally able to do it. To beat John Force in the final when he's going for 100, it doesn't get much better than that."

Despite the runner-up effort, Force remained in the points lead, 10 ahead of Worsham.

"We'll go to Gainesville and get after it again," Force said. "I just hope it doesn't take as long to win my 100th as it did to get my first."

Schumacher ended a winless drought in Top Fuel, outrunning Larry Dixon's Miller Lite dragster. Schumacher's U.S. Army dragster dropped a cylinder at the start but had enough power to post a 4.946 at 299.40, just edging Dixon's machine, which lost traction initially but recovered in time to make it a close race. His car produced a 5.044 at 296.89, but ran out of race track as Schumacher's car crossed the finish line first. It was Schumacher's first victory since the 2000 U.S. Nationals, and his second at FIR.

"This team really deserved that trophy," said Schumacher, who struggled in 2001, posting only one final round appearance and no victories. "We've worked really hard during the off-season and this team stuck together when the chips were down last year. Dan (Olson, crew chief) told me he was onto something good and we just keep getting better each week.

"After you go through a season like we did last year it kinda brings you back to reality. I've spent a lot of time getting focused for this season to make another run for the championship (1999). When you break everything down, we are all involved in this sport because we love it. When you have a day like today, that's why you keep coming back."

With the victory, Schumacher moved into second place and cut Dixon's points lead to 63.

"We know this is just one weekend's work," Schumacher said. "We've still got 21 races to go. It's going to be a long season. You can be a hero one day and then you can also have a tough time like we did last year. We're just going to keep working hard and try to win a lot of rounds."

Allen claimed his 15th career victory in Pro Stock and first-ever at FIR, defeating Warren Johnson in a runaway final. Allen drove his Reher-Morrison Pontiac Grand Am to a 6.904 at 199.02, while Johnson's GM Performance Parts Grand Am experienced problems at the start and trailed to a 7.470 at 148.76.

"I feel very fortunate to win today," said Allen, who beat Greg Anderson, George Marnell and Mike Edwards to advance to the final. "We faced some really tough customers out there. We had lane choice all day and the car ran good. That was the key. We're going to keep working on it."

Allen moved into the points lead for the first time since 1989, and holds a slim 7-point advantage over Marnell.

The next NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series event is the 33rd annual Mac Tools Gatornationals, March 14-17, Gainesville (Fla.) Raceway.

-nhra-

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Larry Dixon , Warren Johnson , Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Bruce Allen , George Marnell , Mike Edwards , Tommy Johnson Jr.