The beat goes on... Worsham now 5-5 after 5
Las Vegas, Sunday: Del Worsham likes Ron Capps. He thinks he's a heck of a nice guy, and he respects him as a fine Funny Car driver. All that said, it wouldn't bother Worsham much if he didn't see Capps for the next few months. It's nothing personal, it's just getting old. For the fifth time in five races Worsham advanced out of the first round in his red Checker, Schuck's, Kragen Monte Carlo, but for the fifth time he also saw his day end in round two. Three of those five losses have come at the hands of Capps, and all of them have been very close.
For the want of a few thousandths of a second here or a hundredth there, the entire order of the universe (or at least the drag racing universe) would be completely altered. Capps, after all, has parlayed those three close wins over Worsham into a healthy points lead. Worsham, conversely, has been unable to do any better than 6th on the points sheet, though he correspondingly appreciates the feat of staying at the .500 mark through the first five races of an exceptionally competitive season.
"It's still way better than losing in the first round, and that bug has bitten a lot of guys out here," Worsham said. "It bit our teammate, Phil Burkart, today for the first time this season. It's just amazingly tough out here, mostly because the top 16 cars are so consistent at going down the race track. You know when you go up there that the odds are huge the other guy is going to make a great lap, and you're either going to win or lose by a hundredth or so. We've done great, winning five first rounds in five races, but the second round blues are wearing me out."
A key indicator of Worsham's strong start to the 2006 campaign has been his qualifying performance. Here in Las Vegas, he used the prime conditions during Friday's second run, contested under the lights, to power to a big 4.750, good enough for the lofty No. 3 spot on the ladder. In retrospect, his No. 13 slot at the season opener in Pomona now looks like an aberration, as Worsham has posted a No. 3, a No. 9, a No. 5, and now another No. 3 at the other four events.
Oddly, the increase in qualifying performance has created a parallel result in terms of Worsham's first round opponent. Here, he once again lined up against teammate Mike Ashley, just as he did in Houston and Phoenix. If Worsham is tired of racing Capps, Ashley may well be equally sick of seeing the red CSK car cross the finish line ahead of him. To add to the "weirdness factor," each time Worsham has faced off with Ashley, and beaten him, he has then faced Capps in round two, where the results have been frustratingly different.
"It's just too bad we keep drawing Mike in round one," Worsham said. "They're on the verge of winning a lot of rounds over there, but we've sent them home in round one three times. I imagine they're about as over that as we are with our second round results. I know I wasn't too excited about running them today, because (Ashley's crew chief) Mark Oswald really has a handle on hot, sunny, race tracks and that's what we had this morning. I knew it would be tight, and it was. It was a big round for us, and we barely got by."
"Barely," in this instance, can be quantified as 53-thousandths of a second. That was the margin of victory over Ashley, aided in great part by Worsham's solid .076 reaction time, compared to Ashley's .097. On top of that, Worsham's 4.866 ET was also enough to grant him lane choice in the dreaded round two, against the dreaded Ron Capps. Lane choice wasn't imperative here, but it was important.
"Both lanes were fine in terms of traction, but a lot of guys were having problems staying in the groove over on the right side," Worsham said. "It wasn't automatic, but it could happen over there so you certainly put the other guy over there if you could. It doesn't help you if the other guy is a great driver who keeps his car in the middle, though."
Capps did just that, after he got an important edge at the tree with a 34-thousandths advantage at the flash of amber. Just as they did in Phoenix and Houston, both Capps and Worsham streaked for the finish line side-by-side. Just as they did in Phoenix and Houston, Capps and Worsham crossed the stripe with the green car slightly ahead, and the red CSK Chevy slightly behind.
"All of our second round losses, every single one of them, have been close," Worsham said. "The three against Ron could all have gone either way, and would have gone our way had they even bobbled at all. Give them credit, though. They've made three flawless runs against us and right now they have our number, and they have the points lead. It drives you nutty to keep doing this, getting excited after round one and then being deflated after round two. But, that's the beauty of this sport. Half of the people racing get deflated every round."
Half the racers get deflated, every round. When the tour visits Bristol in three weeks, Worsham would like to take the air out of someone in round one, and then do it again in round two. If won't even matter if it's Ron Capps.
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