LAS VEGAS – Del Worsham’s chances for a second straight Funny Car world title took a hit with a pair of close losses at St. Louis and Maple Grove Raceway during the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship.
But Worsham, who trails points leader Ron Capps by 145 points, still has plenty left to accomplish this season in his 10,000-horsepower DHL Toyota Camry. On that immediate list is picking up a second win in three years at this weekend’s 16th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
“I think our mindset doesn’t change,” said Worsham, who is currently fifth in points. “The DHL Toyota team is going to continue to try to win races. You can’t control the outcome of the other teams, just your own. The Toyota Nationals have been a good race for us. Winning here in 2014 was a big breakthrough and finishing a season strong is always good for morale and confidence going into the next season.”
Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), Erica Enders (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the NHRA Toyota Nationals. The event is always an important one for Worsham, a Chino Hills, Calif., native.
Worsham hasn’t been able to replicate last year’s thrilling Countdown to the Championship run, where he won four races en route to the Funny Car championship, but the veteran standout knows there still is time to chalk up two impressive victories.
“The last two events of the NHRA Mello Yello season are huge races that I get very excited for,” said Worsham, who has 39 career wins. “For one, they are close to my home in Southern California. Also, they are in the fall where temperatures and track conditions are optimum. We have been racing the entire season and our cars are really dialed in. There is a good chance that we will have record times and very close racing.”
Worsham is no stranger to record-breaking racing, setting a national E.T. record at the time late last year during his championship run. Worsham, one of just three drivers in NHRA history to win both a Funny Car and Top Fuel world championship, set a career-best with a 3.832 this year at Seattle and has hopes of getting back to that level after a first-round loss in St. Louis and a quarterfinal exit at Maple Grove in the playoffs.
That likely derailed a chance for a second straight world title, but Worsham bounced back with a semifinal showing in Dallas. Championship or not, Worsham and his team, led by crew chiefs Nick Bonifante and Jon Oberhofer, know the importance of doing well this weekend. The Toyota-sponsored race makes it an important one for the Kalitta Motorsports team and the group’s success at the event speaks to that.
“Toyota is a huge partner for Kalitta Motorsports, and we want to do well when a lot of the executives are onsite,” Worsham said. “We won the Toyota Nationals in ’14, Doug won last season and J.R. (Todd) won the Toyota-sponsored race in Sonoma earlier this season, so as a team we have a good track record going at Toyota-backed events and we would love that trend to continue.”