Worsham bringing a great car to the Great Northwest
Seattle, prerace: As the saying goes, when referring to bloop hits in a baseball game; "They all look like line drives in the box score." As Del Worsham, driver of the Checker, Schuck's, Kragen Impala Funny Car can attest, the reverse is also true, as real line drives can be caught, and they then "look like strike outs in the box score."
Worsham, who is on his way from the mile-high and arid confines of Denver's Thunder Mountain to the lush sea-level forests of Seattle for this weekend's Schuck's Auto Supply Nationals, has been ripping line drives for weeks, but those pesky fielders keep catching them. When this current six-week stretch of non-stop racing kicked off in Englishtown, Worsham drove his Team CSK Chevy to string of solid runs in qualifying, landing 9th on the grid, though he was probably 1st in terms of confidence heading into race day. Then, when it appeared he was on his way to big first-round win and possibly a grand and victorious Sunday, a sheared blower pulley stopped him cold in his tracks.
A week later, in Norwalk, he was on an enormous lap, and on his way to a solid spot in the middle of the field, when a blower detonation shredded his red CSK Impala. In Bristol, he and Tim Wilkerson put a pair of beautifully competitive laps on the board during their first-round match up, but Worsham came up a few feet short after 1,320-feet of side-by-side competition.
This past weekend, in Denver, it was yet again another hard-hit line drive that found leather instead of open grass, as Worsham gave points leader Ron Capps the best fight of the entire first round, and one of the best of the day. Unfortunately, it was Capps playing the role of the gifted outfielder, as he turned Worsham's hot shot into a loss, by a matter of just a few feet. Four races, four first-round defeats. In the box score, it looks like a slump, but Worsham knows better.
"We have the best car we've had in over a year, right now," he said. "We seem to have fixed the parts breakage problem, we've been really good in terms of consistency, and we've come out to a couple of race tracks, lately, thinking we didn't just have a chance to win the race, but that we really should win the race. Unfortunately, the breaks haven't gone our way and we have very little to show for it.
"I say 'very little,' rather than nothing, because we've been qualifying at every race since Gainesville, and in 2007 that's a big accomplishment. Today, if you make the show, you're instantly picking up a round on at least three very good teams, because that's how many have to DNQ every week. So, we lost in the first round in Denver, but we picked up a round on Ashley Force, Cruz Pedregon, and Tim Wilkerson, and all three of those drivers are right around us in the points. That's the 'glass half full' way to look at it, I guess, because we also missed a shot at picking up tons of points. But, when you race Ron Capps like that, and it's side-by-side the whole way, you can't cry if he beats you. On that lap, we were 99 percent as good as the top guy in the whole class, but we came up a few feet short."
Now, as he heads to Pacific Raceways in suburban Seattle, Worsham knows he still has a fast car, and he'd like to finally be able to exhibit that performance in front of his own sponsors. The Schuck's Auto Supply Nationals bring with them a bit of extracurricular activity and some added pressure, but also an indescribable amount of emotional backing and support, from legions of CSK staffers who spend the weekend with "their team."
"The extra stuff is easy, and I really enjoy doing all of that," Worsham said. "We'll go to the NHRA press conference at the Space Needle, we'll have a race with the CSK managers in the NHRA Pontiac courtesy cars, and we'll host hundreds of CSK people and their key commercial clients, right in our pit all weekend. The amount of support we get from all of those people, whether they're local store managers, regional supervisors, people from CSK headquarters in Phoenix, or even the commercial clients they're hosting at the race, really means a lot to me and all the guys on this team.
"We've won in Seattle before, back in 1999, and that win really started us on a long stretch of success. We've also won races where CSK is the title sponsor, doing that twice in Phoenix at the Checker, Schuck's, Kragen Nationals, so it would be great if we could get some hits to fall in and do this for all of them this weekend. I know we're fast enough, and I know we can put some great laps on the board, just like we've been doing. We just need to keep doing what we've been doing, and we'll get the results we deserve. It's just a matter of when, not if."
Of course, it wouldn't bother Worsham one bit to find his way to the Winner's Circle on the strength of the racing equivalent of bloop hits and broken bat singles, but if given the choice he'd greatly prefer the big home runs he's been so close to hitting over the past four weeks.
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