JOLIET, IL – July 6, 2016 – (Motor Sports Newswire) – Del Worsham didn’t post a victory during the four consecutive race weekends in June that fans and teams are labeling the “Eastern Swing,” but a pair of impressive runs during that stretch has the reigning Funny Car world champion believing things are starting to go his way during the 2016 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.
Worsham qualified a then season-best second in Bristol with a blistering performance of 3.888 seconds at 329.42 mph in his 10,000-horsepower DHL Toyota Camry, following it up a week later with his first No. 1 qualifier of the year, a 3.875 at 328.70 at the most recent race in Norwalk.
Worsham is still clamoring for more consistency in hopes of his first win of 2016 at this weekend’s K&N Filters Route 66 NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway, but with the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship approaching seeing those two standout runs let him know he and his team known as the DHL “Yella Fellas” are moving in the right direction heading to Chicago.
“I feel like the DHL Toyota Camry got faster,” said Worsham, who is currently fourth in the Funny Car points standings. “We have been working hard, and we have some of our performance back. I believe we are in contention to win races again. The next step is being more consistent. The more consistent you are, the better your race day is going to be.”
Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Tommy Johnson Jr. (Funny Car), Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will for the first time be televised nationally on FOX Sports 1. The fan-favorite event at the state-of-the-art motorsports facility just south of Chicago will mark the official start of the second half of 2016 and just five events follow it before the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship begins.
That’s where Worsham was incredible a season ago, winning four of the six playoff races to claim his first Funny Car world championship, also becoming just the third driver in NHRA history to claim world titles in both Top Fuel and Funny Car.
Worsham didn’t win a race before the Countdown to the Championship a year ago, but was building toward something special for the NHRA’s playoffs. That gives him reassurance that his Kalitta Motorsports team is working to peak again at the perfect time, but he would gladly take some wins along the way.
“I always want to win races with the DHL team but the Countdown is the most important,” Worsham said. “We want to start peaking around September like we did one season ago and have consistency built in at that point.”
That consistency is still a work in progress, though Worsham and his team, led by crew chiefs Nick Bonifante and Jim Oberhofer, aren’t missing the mark by much. He already has two final round appearances and two more semifinal berths, along with the pair of standout runs in Bristol and Norwalk.
But to knock off the best in Funny Car, Worsham knows his team has to step it up even more. Veteran driver Ron Capps has been red hot in his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger, winning three of the past four races to take control of the series lead in the star-studded class. Others to watch at Route 66 Raceway include last year’s winner Tommy Johnson Jr., three-time Chicago winner Matt Hagan who has already won twice this year, 16-time world champion John Force, two-time season winner Tim Wilkerson, Jack Beckman, Courtney Force, Gatornationals winner Robert Hight and Worsham’s Kalitta Motorsports teammate Alexis DeJoria, who won in Las Vegas.
Worsham, though, is up for the challenge given his team has shown a constant ability to rise to the occasion when the stakes are at their zenith.
“The biggest thing is that the DHL guys perform at a high level,” said Worsham, who has 38 career victories with 30 of them coming in Funny Car. “They keep their heads down and make very few mistakes.”
Performing at a high level at Route 66 Raceway is also the norm for Worsham, who has four career victories at the facility. The most recent came for Worsham in 2011 in Top Fuel and it includes three Funny Car wins, which matches the Top Fuel win total of teammate and series points leader Doug Kalitta. On the heels of his fast times in Bristol and Norwalk, Worsham hopes that will carry over into a winning performance at the K&N Filters Route 66 NHRA Nationals.
“A lot of things stand out about Chicago,” said Worsham, who shared the winner’s circle with Kalitta in both 2004 and 2002 in Chicago. “It is very big and has a stadium effect. I have won there several times with Doug and we had a great time in the winner’s circle. It is a fast track with a great surface. The facility is also very clean and well taken care of.”
In Top Fuel, Chicago native and defending event winner Tony Schumacher, an eight-time world champion, will try to win for the first time in 2016. A five-time Chicago winner, “The Sarge” will face off against a host of stars in the loaded Top Fuel class, including points leader Kalitta, who has three wins in 2016, two-time season winner Brittany Force, Steve Torrence, who also has two wins this year, J.R. Todd, Richie Crampton, defending world champion Antron Brown, Shawn Langdon, who enters the event riding a two race winning streak, hometown favorites Terry McMillen and T.J. Zizzo and the loquacious Clay Millican.
Pro Stock racer Allen Johnson drove to his first victory of the 2015 season in Chicago and will have the chance to shake things up in the redesigned Pro Stock class this weekend, which has been dominated by Jason Line and Greg Anderson in the first half of 2016. The new look Pro Stock cars feature fuel injected engines, 10,500 RPM rev-limiters, flat hoods and shortened wheelie bars. Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Camaro teammates Line and Anderson have been quick to figure out the new configuration and setup and have been unbeatable in the first 12 races. Line has seven wins and the points lead, and Anderson is right behind with five victories. Both have already secured their playoff berths into the Countdown. Meanwhile, drivers like back-to-back world champ Erica Enders, five-time world champ Jeg Coughlin Jr., Vincent Nobile, 2015 top rookie Drew Skillman, Chris McGaha, veteran driver Shane Gray, and rising stars Alex Laughlin and Bo Butner are eager to find their way to winner’s circle as well.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Arana Jr. raced to first victory of the season and second consecutive at Route 66 Raceway by defeating Matt Smith in the final round one year ago. Standing in his way of a three-peat at the track is points leader Eddie Krawiec, who already has three victories this season, and his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson teammate and defending world champion Andrew Hines. Others to watch in the two-wheeled category include Louisiana alligator farmer Jerry Savoie, three-time world champ Angelle Sampey, who won in Englishtown, LE Tonglet, Pomona runner-up Hector Arana Sr. and Karen Stoffer.
The K&N Filters Route 66 NHRA Nationals will also feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, including the popular and highly-competitive JEGS Allstars bonus event.
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand how the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 5:15 and 7:45 p.m. on Friday, July 8, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, July 9, at 3:15 and 6 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, July 10.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call 888-629-RACE (7223) or 815-722-5500. Tickets also are available online at www.route66raceway.com. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. For more information about the NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.
K&N FILTERS ROUTE 66 NHRA NATIONALS FACT SHEET
WHAT: 19th annual K&N Filters Route 66 NHRA Nationals, the 13th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season. Drivers in four categories – Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle – earn points leading to 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships. The NHRA Lucas Oil Series also will be featured at this event, including the popular JEGS Allstars.
WHERE: Route 66 Raceway, Joliet, Ill. The track is located 30 miles southwest of Chicago on Route 53 (historic Route 66), approximately three miles south of I-80 in Joliet. Take I-80 to exit #132A (Route 53 south) to the track.
COURSE: Championship drag strip; Track elevation is 632 feet above sea level; Track direction is west to east.
WHEN: Thursday through Sunday, July 7-10
THURSDAY, July 7 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
FRIDAY, July 8 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 5:15 and 7:45p.m.
SATURDAY, July 9 – LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 3:15 and 6 p.m.
SUNDAY, July 10 – Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
Saturday, July 9, FS1 will televise two hours of qualifying coverage at 10 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, July 10, FS1 will televise three hours of live finals coverage at 2 p.m. (ET).
2015 EVENT WINNERS: Tony Schumacher, Top Fuel; Tommy Johnson Jr., Funny Car; Allen Johnson, Pro Stock, Hector Arana Jr., Pro Stock Motorcycle.
MOST VICTORIES: Jeg Coughlin, 5, PS; Tony Schumacher, 5, TF; Kenny Bernstein, 4, TF; Tony Pedregon, 4, FC; Whit Bazemore, 3, FC; Larry Dixon, 3, TF; John Force, 3, FC; Matt Hagan, 3, FC; Doug Kalitta, 3, TF; Kurt Johnson, 3, PS; Jason Line, 3, PS; Del Worsham, 3, FC.
Top Fuel – 3.729 sec. by Anton Brown, July ’15; 328.78 mph by Dave Connolly, July ’15.
Funny Car – 3.966 sec. by Cruz Pedregon, July ’15; 322.50 mph by Courtney Force, June ’14.
Pro Stock – 6.528 sec. by Drew Skillman, July ’15; 211.83 mph by Greg Anderson, July ’15.
PS Motorcycle – 6.856 sec. by Chip Ellis, July ’15; 196.82 mph by Hector Arana Jr., July ’15.
Top Fuel – 3.676 sec. by Brittany Force, May ’16, Topeka, Kan.; 332.75 mph by Spencer Massey, Aug. ’15, Brainerd, Minn.
Funny Car – 3.862 sec. and 335.57 mph by Matt Hagan, May ’16, Topeka, Kan.
Pro Stock – 6.455 sec. by Jason Line, March ’15, Charlotte, N.C.; 215.55 mph by Erica Enders, May ‘14, Englishtown N.J.
PS Motorcycle – 6.728 sec. by Andrew Hines, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 199.88 mph by Hector Arana Jr., March ’15, Charlotte, N.C.
TICKETS: For tickets, call (888) 629-RACE (7223) or purchase online at www.route66raceway.com.
NHRA MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS STANDINGS
GLENDORA, CA — Point standings (top 10) following the 12th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series –
1. Doug Kalitta, 1,009; 2. Antron Brown, 940; 3. Steve Torrence, 846; 4. Brittany Force, 832; 5. Tony Schumacher, 729; 6. Shawn Langdon, 711; 7. J.R. Todd, 645; 8. Clay Millican, 572; 9. Richie Crampton, 570; 10. Leah Pritchett, 463.
1. Ron Capps, 966; 2. Courtney Force, 836; 3. Jack Beckman, 823; 4. Del Worsham, 762; 5. Tommy Johnson Jr., 750; 6. Matt Hagan, 747; 7. Tim Wilkerson, 723; 8. Robert Hight, 722; 9. John Force, 668; 10. Alexis DeJoria, 640.
1. Jason Line, 1,389 *; 2. Greg Anderson, 1,274 *; 3. Bo Butner, 796; 4. Allen Johnson, 719; 5. Drew Skillman, 683; 6. Vincent Nobile, 613; 7. Chris McGaha, 557; 8. Shane Gray, 532; 9. Jeg Coughlin, 528; 10. Alex Laughlin, 498.
Pro Stock Motorcycle:
1. Eddie Krawiec, 557; 2. (tie) Andrew Hines, 391; Jerry Savoie, 391; 4. Angelle Sampey, 372; 5. Chip Ellis, 300; 6. Hector Arana, 291; 7. LE Tonglet, 253; 8. Matt Smith, 192; 9. Scotty Pollacheck, 183; 10. Steve Johnson, 179.
* Clinched playoff berth in NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship