Worsham's quarterfinal finish takes back seat to concern about Force
Dallas, Sunday: Del Worsham had a good weekend in Dallas. He qualified 4th and beat Jim Head in round one. He did lose in the next round, to Ashley Force, but moments later, as he and his team towed back from the top end to return to their pit area, he had close-up view of the vicious wreck that collected both Kenny Bernstein and John Force, and his thoughts and concerns shifted from his own race results to the well being of two friends, legends, and mentors. Bernstein walked away from massive collision, but Force was airlifted to the hospital with broken legs and other injuries. In the wreck, Force's car was broken in two, with the front wheels and motor heading off down the track into the sand trap, while the driver's compartment and rear axle stayed behind, with Force enclosed.
"I couldn't believe what I was seeing, as we came back up the return road," Worsham said. "We saw the two cars get together, and they both hit the wall hard, and then we saw them skid down the track toward the sand. It took a second for us to realize John was still down there by us, in the back half of the car. More than anything, I wanted to get over there to help him, but a very serious security guard wouldn't let me. I'm a driver, with clearance to go anywhere on this track, but she was just doing her job I guess, and she wanted no part of me running over there and hopping the wall. I told her 'That's my friend, I want to help him,' but she didn't want any of that. It was frustrating to not be able to get over there, and I'm very concerned for John and how he's doing, but I'm also very relieved that he's still with us, because that was a horrendous crash."
Prior to seeing the crash and feeling the emotions, Worsham had done all he could to put his Checker, Schuck's, Kragen Impala in a position to win in Dallas. His 4.808 qualifying time was 4th-best, but even that came in conjunction with the brilliant young driver's ability to sense trouble and avoid it. Worsham lifted slightly early on that Friday night run, convinced his car sounded and felt "a little off" nearing the finish line. Moments later, when a cursory look around the motor showed no damage, the popular CSK driver began to reverse course, blaming himself for being a bit too eager to lift off the throttle. He was still in that mindset, telling his crew he was sorry for possibly costing them the No. 1 spot by aborting the run, when his team found a broken lifter while dissassembling the motor. As is often the case, Worsham's instinct had been right, and his quick reaction to trouble may have saved his team a race car.
Saturday's qualifying runs were contested in the sunshine and heat, which allowed only the bottom half of the field to juggle, so Worsham entered race day from the No. 4 spot, which earned him a first-round match-up with Countdown driver Jim Head. It was Head who had landed the 8th and final spot in the Countdown at Reading, holding off a serious Worsham charge down the stretch, and Worsham said the motivation from those previous races continues.
"We were chasing Jim for a couple of months, and came up two rounds short of getting ourselves into the eighth spot," Worsham said. "For those last few races, we couldn't help but think in terms of what he was doing versus what we were doing, as we closed the gap and made it interesting. He won the spot, fair and square, but we've always felt we were a Countdown caliber team that just lost its way early in the season. We came on strong, but we peaked a little too late.
"Today, we faced Jim in the first round and it still felt like we were chasing him. Maybe we just feel that way because it's another chance to show what we're made of, even though we're not in the Countdown and all we're battling for right now is 9th place. We're racers, man, and we think we can run with anybody, but I guess it does get you a little more amped up when you're running the guy who beat you to the playoff spot. It's all good, it's just good hard racing and I hope I never come out here to the track to realize I don't feel some motivation to beat the other guy. If that day ever comes I should probably just quit, because I need the emotion and the drive to keep me going."
Worsham bested Head from start to finish in their first-round race, leaving first with a 17-thousandths advantage at the tree before leading the whole way. Crossing the stripe, it was Worsham's strong 4.830 taking out Head's 4.873.
In round two, Worsham faced strong-running Ashley Force, who streaked by him with a stout 4.865 while Worsham smoked the tires just short of half-track. At that moment, Worsham was mostly concerned about his missed tuning call on that round, until he began the journey up the return road and witnessed the Force/Bernstein collision.
"We did okay here, though I'm always disappointed when we have one of the fastest cars and we don't get the win," he said. "I was bummed about that until we saw the crash, and now we're just thinking about John and his family. You know, I've known John for a long time, and we've always gotten along well. Obviously, I was really young when I started racing against him, and he mostly just called me 'Kid' or even 'Opie' for a lot of years, but he's always treated me with a lot of respect and I count him as one of my friends out here. This deal looks like it's going to set him back for a while, but I fully expect to see John back out here as soon as he can do it. We're pulling for him."
Some things are more important than round wins.
Return to Team Reports Archive
Return to the Home Page