At age 32, Del Worsham is the youngest "veteran"
in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. Worsham made his first start in
the cockpit of a nitromethane-burning Funny Car in 1990, logging seven
wins in 14 final rounds along the way. Worsham is the first to admit that
he is still learning how to win behind the wheel of a 6,000-horsepower
machine. This young veteran talks about winning, the 2002 season
expectations, racing John Force and much more. Worsham will be among Funny
Car drivers competing in the 18th annual Checker Schuck's Kragen
Nationals, Feb. 21-24 at Firebird International Raceway in Phoenix. The
$1.8 million race is the second of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA
POWERade Drag Racing Series for 2002.
Q: What are your 2002 expectations?
WORSHAM: I expect to be able to make a run for the
championship. Last season was another building season for our team and I
think we finally learned how to win races. We learned how to make four
runs on Sunday without breaking parts. That is in comparison to the 2000
season when by the third run, something would break or something would go
wrong with the car or the driving wouldn't be the best. Last year we
learned something every run down the track and I think that helped us a
Q: What goals have you set for yourself and the CSK team?
WORSHAM: I want to keep winning races like we did last
year. We didn't run as good in the second half of the season as the first
half, but we still won a couple of races. Part of that was experience;
part of it was that you just get lucky sometimes. We've had bad luck in
the past and sometimes it turns around. If we can keep winning races and
not lose the ones we should win, that's my main goal. Even if we didn't
win a race, and just didn't lose the races we should win, I would be
happy. But don't take that the wrong way, I still want to win as many
races as possible.
Q: You won the final event of the 2001 season and turned
in a runner-up performance at the 2002 season opener. Can the CSK team
carry that momentum to get after the 2002 Funny Car season?
WORSHAM: Yeah, I think we really can. It's hard to tell a
whole lot about the upcoming season and the team during testing, because
the track is different and there aren't as many cars during test sessions.
But you work the bugs out and get to Pomona and see what you have and how
you measure up with the competition. I'm very excited about the 2002
season. We are actually running the same cars as 2001 because I couldn't
see going through the transition because the 2001 cars weren't giving us a
problem and I didn't see how new cars would make us run any faster. So we
are going to start with what we have, make a few subtle changes, and see
if we can dig a little more out of them.
Q: Your wife is expecting twins. How will becoming a
father for the first time affect you?
WORSHAM: We bought a new (motor home) for a reason. I
would say that when we leave for Brainerd, we should be able to pack up
the whole family and hit the road. That will be good. We are going to see
how it is going to work out at first. I have a bright future to look
forward to, that's for sure. But I still don't know what to expect at this
point about being a dad. Sometimes it feels like someone should pinch me
because the cars are running so good that it feels like I am in a dream.
Now my wife is about ready to have the babies. Things are going along
perfectly. It can be a little scary at times. This is a little different
from when I first started. I was excited about everything then, too,
Q: How will you approach this season differently from past
WORSHAM: This is the first year since the early 90s where
we are going into the season with a car that I am sure can win. I've
always thought that we had a car that could win, but there have been times
when we knew we didn't have a car that could perform to the levels of John
Force. This year it does. This year we are taking the attitude that every
single run at every single race means something.
Q: As long as you have raced, John Force has been the man
to beat. What makes him so successful?
WORSHAM: I'll tell you what I think makes John Force a
great, great, drag racer, probably the best ever. I never raced with Don
Garlits, but I know he was voted No. 1. In my time, it has always been
John Force. If John Force has just one thing going for him, it's his
ability to rise to any occasion. It's unbelievable. He always has the best
car, always has the fastest car and he still cuts the best reaction time
when he races the guy he needs to cut it against. It's hard to have a fast
car, if not the fastest car, out there at every event and not make a
mistake, slack off a little bit, red-light or get beat on a holeshot.
Those things come even with the fastest car, and yet, he always seems to
rise above to another level and take it to you. I thought long and hard
about what makes him so great and I am sure that is it.
Q: What do you think about the competition level for the
2002 Funny Car season?
WORSHAM: Just like last year, it is going to be tough.
Second through 10th in points is probably going to be a minor points
difference, just like it was last year. Who knows, maybe even first
through 10th place? It's hard to say. You just really don't know where you
stand or how it's going to shake down until around Atlanta, I think.
Everything starts to smooth out around Atlanta. Before that, there is a
lot of jockeying for position. I'm sure it is going to be as tough as last
year, maybe even tougher. It was tough to qualify last year too. I tell
everyone that every round is like the final round. The competition is so
tough. The guy you race in the first round one week could be the same guy
you could race in the final round next week. It hasn't always been like
that. Even five years ago, six years ago and especially when I first
started, it really wasn't until the semifinals where you really had to
race the guy tough. It was still tough to win, but not like it is today.
John Force is always tough; Mike Dunn was around back then. Winning wasn't
any different, but you got through the first two rounds a lot easier. Now
the first round is just like the final round, there really isn't any
difference. I still believe that we can qualify both cars every race.
Q: What is it going to take to beat Force, and is this the
year that he gets beat in the title chase?
WORSHAM: It's going to be very close; he is a very tough
competitor. In my opinion, it is going to take a very strong car and you
need to win the rounds you are supposed to win. That means you don't go
out first round and you don't spin and the shake the tires for no reason.
John Force doesn't make those mistakes. That team wins the rounds they are
supposed to and they get lucky and win the rounds they probably shouldn't
win. Last season in the mid-part of the year when the car wasn't that
dominant, he was still winning races. I told everyone that we were letting
him win races that he shouldn't. He's going to win the races he should.
He's going to get his six wins a season. If you give him more, what are
you going to do? You're in trouble. Hopefully we can win the races we are
supposed to win.
Q: What are your Funny Car performance predictions for the
2002 season? Will we see some faster speeds and quicker runs?
WORSHAM: Yeah, I think so. I got a sneaky suspicion that
you could see 330 mph. We went 332 with each car and neither car was tuned
to its potential. I am sure there is more there. I am not sure if we can
do it, but who knows until you go out there and start running? Our best
mile per hour going into the season last year was 310, so we picked up 12
mph during the season. So there is a pretty good chance that on a perfect
day, with all of the technology that is out there right now, that we could
reach 330 mph. I love it. It's very exciting. But it's all the same. Even
when I started racing 280 was unbelievable. It was a big deal and it felt
as fast as 320 does now.
Q: You have driven in both nitro categories. What advice
would you offer Gary Scelzi as he makes the switch from Top Fuel to Funny
WORSHAM: He doesn't need any advice, I don't need to give
him any. He is a three-time champion. I've driven both, but really, how do
you give any advice to a three-time champion? Nothing has changed. Once he
gets that car going down the track, he will be just as tough in a Funny
Car as he was in Top Fuel. I should be looking to him for advice,
actually. I have great respect for Gary Scelzi. He's one of the few guys I
haven't raced out here and I think it is going to be fun.
Q: What is your relationship like with your main sponsor,
Checker Schuck's Kragen?
WORSHAM: It's great. Five years ago we put this program
together and I had never driven a sponsored car and they had never
sponsored a Funny Car team before. We had some growing pains and we have
learned a lot. It was a building relationship. It didn't start off being
the greatest financial deal for anybody. As time went on we built it into
this team and they had this vision. They kept telling me that if we kept
working with them, this program would get as big as we wanted it to. The
addition of the second team in 2000 definitely turned the team around. It
helps when you can make twice as many runs at each event. All of the
advantages that John Force had acquired with the two-car team we were
seeing for ourselves. It really started to pay off in 2001.
Q: You had a good relationship with Frank Pedregon. Now
Johnny Gray has taken over the driving duties for the second car. How is
that going so far and how involved was CSK in making the new driver
WORSHAM: We haven't spent too much racing time together
yet, but Johnny is a great guy and I knew Johnny before. My dad knew him
and my dad liked him and that's why he was a great choice. He was just
like us. He had his own cars and he had his own team. He always made do
with what he had. He's just a good guy. CSK told us that it was completely
up to us on who would be the new driver. They told us that it was our
business and we were running it well and who are we to tell you how to run
your business? It was difficult (to have to choose a new driver) because I
had a great relationship with Frank Pedregon. He's a good friend of mine,
but everything ran its course.
Q: What is your dream race? What track are you at and who
are you racing?
WORSHAM: It would be the Finals at Pomona because it's my
home track and all of my friends and family come out. A lot of my friends
and family members can't make it to all of the out-of-town events. Beating
John Force, obviously, would be the best situation. I had a chance to do
that one time at Pomona, and I lost on a holeshot in the final round and
never forgave myself for it. I would want it side-by-side down the track,
with me winning, even by one-hundredth of a second.
Q: Describe the relationship between you and your dad,
WORSHAM: It's wonderful. He and I built this whole thing
together. He is my best friend and he has been my whole life. I grew up
around racing. We stay in the same coach together. Racing really keeps the
family close. My mother comes, my wife is involved, her parents are
involved, and everyone gets involved. It really brings the family
together, even closer. Before I started racing, our family wasn't as close
as it is once I started racing. My dad and I have equal respect for each
other. Some people may see a father-son relationship as something where
the father can look down on the son or tell the son what to do. My father
would never do that.
Q: What would the Worsham family be doing without racing?
WORSHAM: I have no idea. From the time I was five years
old, this is what I wanted to do. I didn't know how I was going to do it
or when, but I knew this is what I wanted. I was sure it would be drag
racing. My dad is in the construction business, so who knows? Maybe we
would be in the construction business.
Q: What has crew chief Rob Flynn added to the team?
WORSHAM: The day he came to work for us, the car started
running better. You can track it back to the day he got here. He got let
go from Alan Johnson. We picked him up and our car started running better,
and we would out-run their car most of the time. Some people just work
better in certain situations and that's just how it works. You have to be
a scout. That's what I always tell my dad. I like to scout talent. I watch
people come up through the ranks. I know everyone out here. It's like Dave
Fletcher. He had never been a crew chief and we hired him to work on our
car. Then the second car came on two weeks later, and we said, 'You're not
going to believe this Dave, but you get your own car.' He was ecstatic and
he did a great job. You know, there was a lot of talk that he couldn't do
it or he was just a crew guy, but I thought, 'Let's give the Englishman a
chance here. I think he is going to surprise everyone.'
Q: What does it take to be a competitive racer as compared
to when you first started?
WORSHAM: It takes money. It took money then, but not like
it takes today. We did it as independents and finished fourth, sixth and
seventh in the world. You could just make it work. There were enough
exhibition match races where we could make money at or we would go over to
a few IHRA races and win some races there. Today, we need corporate
sponsorship dollars to be able to race a guy like John Force. That's the
Q: You and the entire CSK team are often helping other
competitors? Why are you so willing to lend a hand to the competition?
WORSHAM: That's how we got here, other people helping us.
You got to have people helping you to make it out here. I remember what it
was like for us to get started and all of the help we got. We used to show
up at the races with just me and my dad. Other teams, when they would
lose, they would come over and help us. We actually won some national
events with just him and I there. It was wild. But you couldn't do that
now, especially with the 75-minute rule. You couldn't do that now, but
that's the kind of help we got and that's the kind of help I try to hand
Q: How have you evolved over the years as a driver?
WORSHAM: I've tried not to change anything. I have a lot
more experience now than I did, obviously. That really helps. I think I am
a little better now at shutting the engine off when the engine is hurting
or something is going to blow. I try to shut it off, save the parts and
not put myself into a compromising position out on the race track. You
just never know what is going to happen. These cars do some crazy things.
I try to be the constant as the driver. There are a lot of things that I
can't control. The one thing I can control out there is the driving. I
work a lot harder now at having a routine more than I did a few years ago
when I was more of a loose cannon out there.
Q: What is the reality of a young, inexperienced driver
making a run for a NHRA title?
WORSHAM: People out here have so much experience such as
your Kenny Bernsteins and your John Forces. It took them 13-15 years to be
able to win. Any good driver could hop in the car and win once or maybe
twice, like I did the first year. To be able to put together enough wins
and a good enough team to win a championship, it takes years. I look back
at the first two years of my career and we had a great car. It was a fast
car. I could have won a lot more races than I did but I lost some of them
as a driver. We lost a lot of them in the pits. As a crew we made
mistakes, but we came out with a couple of wins and some runner-ups and we
didn't have the experience. My Grandma made me a scrapbook and I look back
at the 1991 season and I think we could have won five or six races that
year. I just gave some of them away by not having the experience.
Q: What do you think about POWERade's involvement with the
WORSHAM: I think it's a good thing. No alcohol or tobacco,
that is going to be pretty nice. What most impressed me about POWERade was
the five-year commitment. Any company would come in here for a year or two
and give this thing a shot. The NHRA draws great crowds with great
demographics. But POWERade has decided to stand by us for five years and
that tells me that they have the level of commitment that we are all
looking for. I am sure my sponsors were glad to see that. A five-year
commitment is nice.
Q: Do you think competitors will see immediate
improvements from the POWERade sponsorship announcement?
WORSHAM: I think we have another small problem right now
and that is the Olympics. The last time that happened here (in the United
States in 1992) that was the same year that I had a really great winning
car. There were some great corporations that I was having meetings with
and everything was going good. But the Olympics just snatched everything
up. So I think once we get past Sept. 11 and the Olympics, then we'll be
able to take advantage of the POWERade announcement. But it might take
Q: Tell us about the "MegaRita" machine - a
5,000 horsepower mixer that shoots three-foot flames and makes five
gallons of margaritas.
WORSHAM: I don't remember the exact moment I thought it
up, but the concept was based on various margarita mixers you see on lakes
or hear about from friends. So one day I was looking around our shop and I
figured we had enough old stuff there in the shop to build a fully running
motor. It would be made of parts we don't use anymore, from the days of a
5.30 elapsed time run. I was looking ahead to our pit party that we throw
on Sunday night in Pomona to close out the season and I just envisioned
the world's most powerful margarita mixer, plain and simple. I built it in
my spare time during the last two months of the season, which took me off
the golf course for two months. I got an old motorcycle trailer, mounted
the block on that, and built the full motor. We built it differently than
we would a real race motor. All the seals and gaskets are silicone to cut
out any leaks. When it was time to build the blades, I almost just welded
up something that looked like blades. So I just took apart our blender at
home and copied the blades, only five times bigger. My wife loved that
one. I figured the thing would be pretty popular at the season-ending
race. It has become a legend.