Returning to the site of his first career NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series win, Del Worsham hopes it provides a spark to a Funny Car season that has not yet gotten on track. After a first-round win at the opening race in Pomona in his 10,000-horsepower Lucas Oil Toyota Camry, Worsham has five straight first round losses, something he hopes to change at this weekend’s 37th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway.
The track was home to Worsham’s first Funny Car win in 1991 when a then 21-year-old Worsham was just beginning to make his mark. Now two world championships and 39 wins later, Worsham has established himself as one of the top drivers in NHRA history, and the longtime standout is eyeing Atlanta as the place to get his 2017 season going.
“It’s a great track, great fans, and it would be a great place to get the season ff to a good start and turn it around and feel like we’re heading in the right direction,” Worsham said. “It’s our sponsor’s race and that makes it fun. You know your car will be highlighted a little bit and you always want to run well for your sponsors. I feel like the car is running better and we’ve got four runs to put ourselves in a good position going into Sunday.”
Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car) Jason Line (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were also last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including finals coverage starting at 6:00 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, May 7. It marks the seventh of 24 events during a season that started with Worsham making a big move.
He left Kalitta Motorsports, returning to his family-owned team with his father, Chuck Worsham. The early results have not been desirable, but strong test sessions after Las Vegas and Houston produced ideal solutions. Worsham liked the runs he made in Charlotte, which could translate into more consistency starting at the race in Atlanta to finish off a stretch of three straight events.
“There’s been a lot of unforeseen things take place and it’s taken a lot longer to sort out than I thought they would,” Worsham said. “But Charlotte was better for us and we’re really looking forward to Atlanta. We’re having to look past some of the old set-ups and forge towards a new set-up, and it’s been tough. We made some better runs in Charlotte and the info we got from that, I think it will really help in Atlanta.”
The good news is there has minimal damage to the car over the past two races and the stretch of three straight events should be good for the team’s rhythm. Of course, Worsham still has to compete with the elite in Funny Car, including points leader and defending champ Ron Capps, who has won two straight races, Matt Hagan and 16-time world champion John Force. But Worsham continues to treasure every moment of racing again with his father.
“It’s been great, spending time with my dad and team,” Worsham said. “Several crew members are crew members of the past, so that’s nice. I’m not going to lie, it can be frustrating. We all want success and we haven’t done that yet. But you know what you’re up against when you take a challenge like this, and it’s something we definitely want to take on. We’re looking forward to getting back on track and winning some rounds.”
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 4:15 and 7:10 p.m. on Friday, May 5 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, May 6, at 1:15 and 3:45 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, May 7.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call (800) 884-NHRA (6472) or visit www.NHRA.com/tickets. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. To honor the Salute to First Responders, military and first responders can save 20 percent on general admission tickets at the gate.