Seattle: Round 14 preview

WORSHAM LOOKS TO TURN FUNNY CAR SEASON AROUND WITH VICTORY AT PACIFIC RACEWAYS AND STRONG WESTERN SWING PERFORMANCE KENT, Wash. -- If you analyze Del Worsham's 2006 season score card, the results are mixed. He has had a fast race car. It has ...

WORSHAM LOOKS TO TURN FUNNY CAR SEASON AROUND WITH VICTORY AT PACIFIC RACEWAYS AND STRONG WESTERN SWING PERFORMANCE

KENT, Wash. -- If you analyze Del Worsham's 2006 season score card, the results are mixed. He has had a fast race car. It has been consistent, too. However, it seems that every driver he has faced during eliminations in the first half of the season has had a race car that was just a little bit faster.

The net result: a lot of photo finishes, too many early round losses and a ton of frustration for the veteran driver.

However, just like some golfers will do after a rough start, Worsham is ready to toss out his front nine score and focus on his back nine performance as the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series season turns the corner and zooms at full speed into its second half.

Worsham will need a lot of birdies and eagles during the final 10 races of the season to improve on his 10th place position in the POWERade Series standings.

The Chino Hills, Calif. driver, who has earned 21 victories during his career, is confident he can make up some ground on the series points leaders with a strong showing at the Schuck's Auto Supply NHRA Nationals presented by Lucas Oil, July 21-23 at scenic Pacific Raceways near Seattle. The $1.4 million race, which will be televised on ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD, is the 14th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

Defending race winners include Brandon Bernstein (Top Fuel); Eric Medlen (Funny Car) and Kurt Johnson (Pro Stock).

Worsham, who won this event in 1999, says the keys to running well at Pacific Raceways are having a car that runs consistently, qualifying in the top half of the lineup and being quick enough throughout eliminations to maintain lane choice.

"It's never been a huge performance track, so you always have to have a delicate balance on your tune-up, to take what the track will give you but never any more," Worsham said. "If bumps (on the track) are an issue, lane choice can be huge."

He also is one of a handful of Funny Car drivers who have won the career Western Swing, the gut-wrenching three-week tour of NHRA events in Denver, Seattle and Sonoma, Calif. Only one Funny Car driver -- John Force in 1994 -- has swept the Western Swing in one season. Additionally, only five drivers have accomplished the rare feat in NHRA history in all pro categories.

"I think the swing had a lot more mystique back in the day when it was really something unique, but we go on back-to-back swings, and even back-to-back-to-back swings, throughout the season," Worsham said. "It's not so unique anymore, but it's still the original and it has a lot of history. The old thoughts about the Swing still apply. It's three races very far apart, which means the teams are really hustling to get from race to race and still be ready at the next one, and it's run in three totally different environments. It takes a brilliant crew chief to handle all three."

Worsham says it is one of the most competitive Funny Car seasons that he can remember. Ron Capps, who won this event in 1997, has led the championship chase all year in his Brut Dodge, while 13-time POWERade Series world champ Force, who has won here a record seven times and has an NHRA record 120 career victories, is close behind in the standings in his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang.

"We've lost by a hundredth, by a few thousandths, and even by seven-ten thousandths of a second this year, which is absolutely ridiculous," said Worsham, whose best finish in the first 12 races was a semifinal run at Atlanta. "You can't even imagine seven-ten thousandths of a second. It's like high school science class when they start talking about atoms and protons. You know it's real, but you can't really imagine it. Everyone out here can win, but what we're seeing is the competition tightening up so much that more and more of the races are heartbreakers for the guy who loses. I know that for a fact, trust me."

In Top Fuel, Melanie Troxel has raced to two victories in seven final rounds and has led the standings for most of the season in her Skull Shine/Torco Racing Fuels dragster. However, yesterday at Denver, Doug Kalitta moved into the points lead, 22 up on Troxel thanks to a semifinal finish. Kalitta has posted four victories in his Mac Tools dragster. Defending winner Bernstein and Rod Fuller have claimed two wins each and are certainly threats to win. Three-time and defending world champ Tony Schumacher, who won here in 2004, earned his first victory of the season last month in St. Louis and posted a runner-up finish to rookie first-time winner J.R. Todd at Denver and could be primed for a late season championship run in his U.S. Army dragster.

Three-time world champ Greg Anderson has led the way all year in Pro Stock in his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO but gave up the lead at Denver to his teammate and two-time winner Jason Line. Three time winner Dave Connolly is making a strong move late in the season with a win at Denver over the weekend. Kurt Johnson, Mike Edwards and former two-time series champ Jim Yates are all ones to watch and young phenom Erica Enders continues to have the best Pro Stock season ever for a female driver.

SCHEDULE: Professional qualifying sessions are scheduled for 3:30 and 6 p.m. on July 21, and 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on July 22. Eliminations start at 11 a.m. on July 23.

TICKETS: For tickets, call Pacific Raceways, at (253) 639-5927. Tickets also are available at Ticketmaster.com.

ON TV: ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will televise two hours of qualifying at 8 p.m. (ET) on July 22. ESPN2 and ESPN2 HD will air NHRA 2Day, a 30-minute weekly news magazine show, at 11:30 a.m. (ET), followed by three hours of eliminations coverage at 8 p.m. (ET) on July 23.

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Kurt Johnson , Del Worsham , Ron Capps , Greg Anderson , Melanie Troxel , Brandon Bernstein , Jason Line , Eric Medlen , Rod Fuller , J.R. Todd , Mike Edwards