Worsham encouraged, but disappointed, by semifinal finish
Dallas, Sunday: For Del Worsham, this weekend began to turn around late on Saturday afternoon, when we made a thrilling run in a beautiful Funny Car, eliciting a standing ovation from the huge Dallas crowd while his lap was covered "live" on nationals TV by ESPN-2. The odd thing about that lap was that it did not come in his red Checker, Schuck's, Kragen Monte Carlo. It came in his wildly popular Blue Max nostalgia car, and the 5.97-second exhibition lap he posted in the Max lit up website messageboards and cell phones from coast to coast. At that moment, with the applause still ringing in his ears, Worsham began to think he might just go on to win this race, though in the CSK machine of course.
"To be honest, Friday was way too nuts for me," Worsham said, referring to his double-duty on Friday when he had to run his CSK car late in the second session, then sprint back to the starting line to make the Blue Max's debut run in public. "It was crazy all day, people were getting a look at it for the first time, all the legends were walking around and hanging out with us, and for me it was a little tough to focus on the real job here. My head was spinning.
"Saturday was way better. We had the Blue Max scheduled to run with plenty of time to spare before I had to run in the Funny Car session, and obviously the run went great, beyond our best expectations. Once that was behind me, I kind of felt like things were going our way. We went out and made a great run in the final Funny Car session, and came out here this morning feeling really good. We had Tony Pedregon in round one, and they were quicker than us in qualifying, but I just felt like we were on the upswing, getting better with each run. I knew we had a chance."
It was more than a chance, as it turned out. Worsham left first, but only by a microscopic margin as both he and Pedregon showed strong reactions to the tree, and then streaked down the track to a very strong 4.852, while Pedregon clocked in at 4.906. Worsham's good feeling gained a little more substance.
In round two, it was Worsham versus his teammate Phil Burkart, who had taken out points leader Gary Scelzi in round one, much to the delight of any fans rooting for any of the other four drivers still in the championship chase. This time, Burkart got the jump at the lights, picking up nearly 2-hundredths of a second at the start. The red CSK car and Burkart's Techron machine paced each other the length of the track, and although neither car ran the sort of numbers the teams had hoped for, they put on a great race. Worsham overtook Burkart by half-track and pulled away for a 4.906 to 4.953 win. For the fourth time this year, Worsham was on his way to the semi-final and that certain feeling was still growing stronger.
In the semi, Worsham would face Frank Pedregon in a replay of their Mac Tools U.S. Nationals final round. Pedregon had earned his way this far with a thrilling win over Mike Ashley in round one, and then a major upset of Ron Capps in round two.
"Frankie is tough, this was no easy deal," Worsham said. "We weren't looking past him at all, and I wasn't even thinking about anything other than making a clean lap. Unfortunately, it didn't go that way."
Worsham left the line strong, but was soon up in surprising tire smoke while Pedregon limped to the finish line with cylinders dropping. The outcome took the wind right out of Team CSK's sails.
"I could feel another final round coming, just like I felt the wins in round one and round two, so I was pretty stunned we smoked the tires there," Worsham said. "We haven't had the year we've wanted, and a win here would have gone a long way to making life a lot better heading into 2006. Sometimes a semi-final feels good, but right now this one kind of stinks.
"We have two races left, and there's a huge championship fight going on ahead of us. The best thing we can do is keep winning rounds, maybe take out a few contenders like Phil and the Techron team did in round one here today, and win at least one of these last two. If we take care of ourselves, we can still finish well and still have a lot to be proud of."
Worsham moved back into 8th place on this day, and now is only 26 points behind Whit Bazemore in 7th. Just ahead of Bazemore is Tommy Johnson, who sits 6th, holding a 64 point lead on Worsham and 38 point edge on Bazemore.
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