Championship Drag Racing

Mac Tools U.S. Nationals
Clermont, IN
(August 31-September 5)

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Mac Tools U.S. Nationals
Worsham’s $225K double highlights 51st Mac Tools U.S. Nationals

By Rob Geiger,

Funny Car veteran Del Worsham led all winners at the 51st annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals by "doubling-up" with victories in Monday's race and Sunday's Skoal Showdown to push his winnings at Indianapolis Raceway Park to a rewarding $225,000. The excitable Worsham shared the spotlight with fellow winners Larry Dixon, Greg Anderson, and Steve Johnson, as well as new points leaders Tony Schumacher and Gary Scelzi.

Worsham ended the Cinderella Story of part-timer Frank Pedregon, who lost by just .01-second. Dixon took out Schumacher in the Top Fuel final, but not before Schumacher posted a 40-point lead in the POWERade standings. Anderson is beginning to open up a sizable lead in pro Stock with his sixth win of the year, this one over emotional favorite Richie Stevens of New Orleans, while Pro Stock Motorcycle titlist Johnson scored his second NHRA win of the year at the sport's biggest race. Johnson wasn't awarded his trophy until Tuesday after ESPN footage showed him crossing ahead of Matt Smith, who was initially declared the winner.

Larry Dixon

's win over Schumacher in the Top Fuel final snapped a string of three consecutive Indy victories by Schumacher. It was the third Indy title for Dixon, which ties him with his boss Don "the Snake" Prudhomme, Joe Amato, and Gary Beck in Indy Top Fuel wins. Dixon won here previously in 1995 and 2001. He also came within one win of Kenny Bernstein for second place on the all-time Top Fuel list with his 38th title.

This one was over 100 feet into the run as Schumacher overpowered the racetrack and went up in smoke. Dixon might have been too tough to beat anyway as he posted a stellar 4.521 at 326.71 mph ahead of Schumacher's resigned 8.143 at 107.27 mph.

“This race is everything to anyone who drag races," Dixon said. "To me it's as big as winning the championship. To beat a team in the final that has absolutely dominated this racetrack this decade only makes it better.

"This win is for my dad. He's battling cancer right now and he's gonna beat it but he was here and I'm so happy he got to see me win this race. He'd only been at the races one other time when I won so this was special.

"The trophy is going to my daughter Alanna. When I won on Father's Day my son Donovan got the trophy so Alanna's been saying she would get the next one. The problem is she wanted a girl trophy so my wife made these little clothes for the Wally. My Wally is a dolly now.

"When we were runner-up in Brainerd, everyone said, 'Good job.' The problem is we lost ground in the points because [Doug] Kalitta beat us. We were facing the same situation today so it was a really big swing to beat them. I don't know if we'll make up enough ground by the end of the year to win the title but at least we won Indy."

Dixon's Miller Lite machine got quicker each round on the way to his 69th career final as he posted a 4.60 versus Scott Weis, a 4.55 opposite Cory McClenathan, and a 4.54 against the red-hot Doug Herbert. Like Schumacher, all three of Dixon's early opponents smoked their tires.

Schumacher's U.S. Army rail looked strong in Rounds 1 and 2 as the reigning series champ blew past Jack Beckman and Rod Fuller with the quickest passes of the first two round. He then stumbled ever-so-slightly in the semi’s against Dave Grubnic and surrendered lane choice to Dixon in the final due to his mediocre 4.65-second winning time.

Schumacher's runner-up finish and Doug Kalitta's second-round red-light helped Shoe retake the POWERade points lead by 40 markers. Schumacher has led the rankings two other times this year for a total of six races. Dixon is now just 39 points out of second place and 79 out of the lead.

Del Worsham

Everything worked out perfectly for Worsham as he became the sixth driver ever to "double-up" by winning the race and the Skoal Showdown, which is worth an extra $50,000 from NHRA. Combined with his $100,000 Skoal payday and his $75,000 race day purse, Worsham will pocket $225,000 plus contingency money.

The final was a doozy with Pedregon streaking out to an early lead with a .062-second light to Worsham's .078-second start. But Worsham quickly caught Pedregon, reeling him in by the first timers, and slowly inched away for a seven-foot win, with the final numbers showing him crossing in 4.874 at 320.05 mph to Pedregon's 4.904 at 313.07 mph.

"People always ask you what's your favorite win," said Worsham, who moves to 2-0 in final rounds this year. "I've always said '91 Atlanta because it was my first win and I was just 21 years old. But I think this weekend might take its place. We've not had the year we were hoping to have after struggling for such a long stretch but this sure makes up for a lot.

"There was a lot of money on the line going into the final. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't thinking about it. Everyone on the team was very quiet and focused between rounds. We knew what was on the line. Frank had qualified ahead of us so there was no way we were going to take him lightly.

'I've been drag racing since I was 6 and driving Funny Cars since I was 20. I've watched this race for as long as I can remember and it was huge just to race here. To win, to double up, it's too much."

Worsham followed his Skoal Showdown victory with his 32nd final-round run and his second ever at IRP. The fast-talking Checker, Schuck's, Kragen Chevrolet Monte Carlo driver beat Jim Head, Bob Gilbertson, and Whit Bazemore before squaring off with former teammate Pedregon in the money round.

Racing for the first time under the Toyo Tires banner, Pedregon didn't disappoint his new backers with an unlikely final-round run, the seventh of his career. The oldest of the three Pedregon racing brothers beat defending event champion Gary Densham, Eric Medlen, and new points leader Scelzi with progressively quicker elapsed times.

Three-time Top Fuel champion Scelzi was thrilled to take the Funny Car points lead for the first time ever, even though it was by a slender one-point margin over Robert Hight. The talented Californian became just the fourth driver ever to have led the points in both Top Fuel and Funny Car during their careers. The other three are Kenny Bernstein, Ed "the Ace" McCulloch, and Don "the Snake" Prudhomme.

Greg Anderson

Anderson was simply too much to handle in the Pro Stock final, especially after Stevens failed to gain any sort of head start when the green light flashed. Although he stayed fairly close, Stevens could clearly see Anderson out front by the time they reached the finish line with Anderson's 6.718 at 205.26 mph clearly ahead of Stevens' 6.779 at 203.98 mph.

The win helped Anderson open up a 135-point cushion in the championship standings with five races left on the schedule. Kurt Johnson is now the only driver with a realistic chance of catching him in the title chase. Warren Johnson is third, trailing Anderson by 213 points.

“This race is a career-maker. I'm so blessed to have won it four times. The guys are just so awesome at making the right calls with the setup. You're supposed to run quick at night, but to turn around and just as well the following day when the sun's on the track and it's 20 degrees hotter says a lot about my guy's ability.

"I'm so proud of Richie just for being here. For him to put everything out of his mind and get to the finals at Indy is great. The money I won doesn't matter because everything we collected here this weekend, for being No. 1 qualifier and winning the race, is going to drag racers from down there that were beat up by the hurricane. It's the least we can do."

Anderson's powerful Summit Racing GTO was untouchable on the day as he carded the quickest pass of each session en route to his 54th final-round appearance. He needed a fast car as he was left on every round, but he still managed to beat Bruce Allen, Dave Connolly, and Allen Johnson with room to spare.

A native of New Orleans who lost his house and business to Hurricane Katrina, Stevens shook off a tough week and raced through to his ninth career final in his Mopar Dodge Stratus R/T. He beat Larry Morgan on a holeshot, an out-of-shape Kurt Johnson, and surprise semifinalist Mark "Cowboy" Pawuk to get a shot at Anderson.

Steve Johnson

Johnson didn't get to celebrate with the other winners as the timers at IRP gave the win to opponent Smith. Later Monday evening, ESPN broke down film from the camera they had positioned at the finishline and apprised NHRA officials that it clearly showed Johnson crossing ahead of Smith. After a day of studying all of the evidence, NHRA Vice President of Competition Graham Light elected to reverse his initial decision to let Smith's win stand and instead gave the victory to Johnson.

Smith, the son of Pro Stock legend "Tricky Rickie" Smith, made a big switch prior to this race when he retired his Red Line Oil Suzuki and took over the S&S Cycle Buell V-Twin that was ridden to the pole here one year ago by Chip Ellis.

The move almost paid the ultimate dividend as he seemed to overcome a colossal reaction time advantage by final-round foe Johnson, who left with a .026 to Smith's .117, and when the timers showed he had won by .0013 seconds, the party was on. The potential of a reversal didn't come until later in the evening so Smith celebrated what he thought was his first NHRA win with gusto.

"George Smith and George Bryce asked me to ride this bike this weekend," Smith said. "They had a new one they wanted Chip [Ellis] to ride but they still wanted to run this one so I jumped at the chance. I'm glad they let me ride it. I hope they let me back on it in Reading. I asked them and George [Bryce] said, 'We'll see.' One way or the other I'll be on it."

After qualifying No. 2, Smith marched right through the field to his second final in 30 career starts. He had to beat three other Buells just to get to the money round, knocking off Chris Rivas, Ellis, and Matt Guidera. Prior to this event, Smith had won just two elimination rounds all year.

After leading the POWERade points for two events at the start of the season thanks in large part to his win in Gainesville, Johnson returned to the title round for the ninth time in his lengthy career by beating Craig Treble, Joe DeSantis, and Angelle Sampey.

Points leader Andrew Hines gave away any his chance to pad his lead when he red-lighted in Round 1. He remains 17 up on teammate GT Tonglet and 107 ahead of third-place runner Antron Brown with three races remaining in '05.

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