Mac Tools U.S. Nationals
Worsham can't win for losing
The frustrating news came in the form of a tight race, a near-perfect lap, and the third-quickest E.T. in the Funny Car first round. Pulling up to the line, as part of the final pair in the opening round, Worsham already knew that his potential second-round opponent, Tony Pedregon, had run a stout 4.176 to move on to the second stanza. Beating that would be problematic, and lane choice certainly appeared to be of prime importance on a morning when car after car was smoking the tires in the right lane, but beat it he did. Worsham actually matched Pedregon's time, with an equal 4.176, but by one tiny mile-per-hour, he topped him on speed, having run 298.60 to Pedregon's 297.29. Worsham would've had that critical lane choice, if not for a certain Tim Wilkerson, the dominant points-leader in the class. Wilkerson defied the dodgy right lane with a sterling 4.167, and beat Worsham by half a car-length.
"I never saw him, but I had that subconscious feeling that he was right over there," Worsham said. "When it's happening, you don't really hear the other car, because it all happens so fast that if you stopped to think about what you can or can't hear, you'd crash, but I just had a sense he was there. When I hit the 'chutes, the little light on top of the wall, which they put there just for the drivers, was on in his lane. I won't say I couldn't believe it, because this is just the way things have been going lately.
"We looked at the data on the computer, as well as our video of it, and I have to tell you that it's just about impossible for me to see any particular part of the lap that we could've improved. It was as nice and clean a run as you're ever going to see, but we lost. As for the reason why, I didn't have any idea earlier in the year, I haven't had any idea for the most of the year, and I don't have any idea now. If losing close races makes you stronger, I'm ready for the Olympics."
Though Indy is a four-day pro event, with five qualifying sessions, the key run for the whole long weekend came on Saturday night, when the Funny Cars ran at dusk and the times began to shrink. With the new qualifying format in place, it is true that four spots remained open going into Sunday, but with the likes of John Force, Gary Scelzi, Jerry Toliver, Tommy Johnson, Bob Bode, and Jeff Arend all below the cut line going into the last lap, a last-ditch miracle run was something no one wanted to attempt. In the end, none of those names, including Force, could bump their way in.
Worsham, to the contrary, delivered a huge blow on Saturday evening, running his 4.128 early in the session. Though he knew it was a very good lap, and it placed him in the No. 2 spot right after the run, he also knew that a cavalcade of stars was behind him in line, and he wasn't overly confident about his final standing.
"It was a really good lap, but the conditions were getting better by the second, so you knew those other crew chiefs were watching what we were doing and twiddling every knob they could find," Worsham said. "I wouldn't have been surprised to end up 12th, or even out of the top 12, by the time everyone ran."
Instead, the CSK team managed to hold on for the 8th position. As for luck, it only surprised those who haven't been paying attention when Wilkerson bobbled just a bit off his normal standards, to land 9th. These days (this year) it seems to matter not a single iota where Worsham qualifies, as the biggest of hitters seem to always line up in the appropriate spot to take him on in the first round. This time, it was the points leader, the runner-up in the US Smokeless Showdown, and the man with four wins to his credit on the season.
As the story unfolded, little of the script departed from the same story-line that has been recycled on multiple occasions. Great qualifying effort, great lap, would've beaten just about anyone else, but sorry. Thanks for coming.
Looking forward, Worsham and his band of CSK pros will head to
"We're out of the Countdown, out of this race, and out of answers, but there's not a person on this team, and probably not a person in the pit area, who isn't jazzed and excited about getting to
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