Worsham's exciting weekend ends in round two
Las Vegas, Sunday: Del Worsham had a Las Vegas weekend he'd call "exciting", "nerve wracking", and "frustrating" all at the same time. He needed a huge performance in the afternoon heat on Saturday to bump his way into the field, he faced one of the top cars in the class in round one, and he hosted the new C.E.O. of CSK Auto, Larry Mondry, who was attending his first drag race and meeting Worsham for the first time, on Sunday. In the end, much of the excitement was of the positive kind, but a loss of combustion in one cylinder, during his round-two race, ended his day far earlier than he had hoped.
The first bit of tension and excitement came during qualifying, when Worsham finished the day on Friday slightly outside the field, landing 17th when a split fuel line slowed him dramatically during the late afternoon session. By then, it was clear this was going to be a tough show to make, with 25 Funny Cars entered and good runs piling up upon good runs. Saturday was, obviously, going to be a very big day.
"We put ourselves in a tough spot on Friday, not making a good run in Q2, and that was the last thing I wanted," Worsham said. "Our first goal here was to get in deep and get in early, because the car count here was so big you just knew it was going to be a massive dogfight to earn a spot in this field. I was mad on Friday night, mad that we let a mechanical gremlin do that to us, and I will admit I was a little worried, because weird things like that have a way of cropping up on weekends where everything goes wrong and you don't get to race on Sunday.
"Instead, my dad put a great tune-up in the car for the first run on Saturday, and we not only got in, we got in safely on that pass. We got out of the way of a whole bunch of really good cars that were all fighting for the last spot or two, so that was a very good thing. It would've been great to be in the top half, but it really didn't matter to me. We were in, and I knew the whole ladder was filled with great cars, so your position really didn't matter."
Landing in the 12th spot, Worsham earned a date with one of those great cars, running Jack Beckman in round one on a Sunday that dawned sunny and warm, and seemed to be heating up by the minute. As the first pair of Funny Cars, Worsham and Beckman would square off as two guinea pigs, testing a hot track that looked to be trouble for these short-wheelbase monsters.
At the flash of amber, Worsham gave Beckman a tiny advantage off the line, but when Beckman's car suffered a seized blower at the hit of the throttle, Worsham was away with what amounted to a solo pass. His Checker, Schuck's, Kragen Impala did lose traction around half-track, and Worsham did pedal the car expertly, not knowing Beckman had broken, before he powered across the line for the win.
"I was just racing, man, I had no idea he wasn't right next to me," Worsham said. "I knew the track was hot, so I was ready for tire spin. I pedaled it out of the first tire smoke, and it hooked up for a while. After that, I was just in survival mode, doing anything I could do to get it to the finish line. You're just working at it as hard as you can, and you're hoping that other car isn't going to come flying around you. It was huge to get the win light, having Larry Mondry and huge group of CSK people and a bunch of their commercial customers with us.
"It was Larry's first drag race, and his eyes were pretty wide about this whole thing. I know he's been swamped since he took over the position, so we were really honored to have him take time out of his schedule to come over here to Las Vegas. He got to see what all of this is about, on the track and in the pit area where we were hosting huge crowds of CSK clients, so I hope he enjoyed it and I hope he got to high-five someone after we won."
In round two, Worsham was up against Ashley Force, who was playing the role of hero for her injured father, who was at the race with the aid of a special walker, though he still has one leg in a cast and is sporting a variety of bandages.
Worsham knew the round-two race was a pivotal moment if he wanted to play to the ultimate conclusion, as there's no getting to the semi-final without winning round two. He jumped out to an early lead on Force, grabbing a quick two-hundredths at the line, but his car then immediately dropped a cylinder before the 60-foot mark. With one-eighth of his horsepower gone at such a critical point on the track, Worsham lost ground in a hurry. His car then picked the cylinder back up, and he was gaining ground fast, but he simply ran out of race track. Force's 4.858 was just too strong for Worsham's 4.942.
"I could tell it just didn't want to go at the hit of the throttle, like it had an anchor out and couldn't get going, but then it started pulling pretty hard and it ran pretty well for the rest of the lap," Worsham said. "We just put ourselves in too big of a hole there at the start, and she whooped us pretty well. Just like that, you go from dreaming of going a lot of rounds or winning the race, to heading back to the transporter to figure it all out and move on. That's all we can do, and there's only one more race to move on to. It's Pomona next week, and then we're totally in 2008 mode."
One more race, one more chance to win. As nerve wracking as race day is, that would be truly exciting.
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