CHARLOTTE, NC – September 13, 2016 – (Motor Sports Newswire) – Del Worsham got red-hot at the perfect time a season ago, winning four races in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship to claim his first Funny Car world title.
This year, Worsham is ahead of that remarkable pace and has a head start on what appears to be another late-season surge in 2016. He has advanced to the past three final rounds heading into this weekend’s Countdown to the Championship opener, the ninth annual NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway.
Returning to the site of where he started his impressive string in the playoffs, Worsham is hoping to recreate similar magic this year in his 10,000-horsepower DHL Toyota Camry. Worsham, who recently won in Brainerd and enters the Countdown to the Championship in second place, believes his team is in a better spot than it was a year ago but he also knows that doesn’t guarantee anything in a star-studded Funny Car class.
“Last season’s start gave my DHL Toyota team the confidence that we could win,” said Worsham, who became just the third driver in NHRA history to win world titles in both Top Fuel and Funny Car. “It gave us the points lead leaving Charlotte and that was what we were after. I definitely feel like we are in a better position than we were last year. However, lots of teams are fast and we will not be able to surprise anyone this year.”
Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Erica Enders (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also bettered the competition a year ago of a race that will be broadcast on FS1 for the first time. Everyone who won at the first of the six races in the Countdown to the Championship ended up as a world champion and Worsham certainly built on the momentum he gained by winning in Charlotte.
He followed that up with victories in St. Louis, Dallas and Pomona, never relinquishing the points lead he earned with the victory at zMAX Dragway. Worsham appears to be more than ready to defend his Funny Car crown, advancing to the final round in Seattle, Brainerd and Indianapolis heading into the Countdown to the Championship.
Worsham, though, insists his mindset isn’t different this time of year, even as the stakes continue to get bigger with each race.
“Nothing changes,” said Worsham, who has 39 career victories, 31 of which have come in Funny Car. “Every time I go to the line I want to take this DHL Toyota Camry to the next round or to the winner’s circle.”
Worsham and his team, led by crew chiefs Nick Bonifante and Jim Oberhofer, found the formula a year ago, but there’s nine other championship contenders in Funny Car ready to make sure that doesn’t happen in 2016.
Ron Capps, who won a class-best five times during the regular season, takes the points lead into the Countdown, while other championship hopefuls include Courtney Force, Robert Hight, 16-time world champion John Force, two-time world champion Matt Hagan, Jack Beckman, Tommy Johnson Jr., Tim Wilkerson and Alexis DeJoria.
But despite the championship a year ago and the hot stretch heading into the playoffs, Worsham doesn’t believe there is a target on his back as the reigning world champion.
“No, I do not think so,” said Worsham, who has jumped from seventh to second over the past five races. “I think that all 10 cars are going to run at the highest level. Everyone knows what is at stake and everyone is going after the title.”
Worsham and his team, though, have worked for months on a tune-up capable of winning a second straight championship and that has become evident in recent races.
Worsham has been a model of consistency and performance at the past three events, routinely running in the 3.80s, including a career-best 3.832 elapsed time in Seattle. It’s exactly the type of runs that are going to be necessary to succeed in what should be a thrilling race to the event win this weekend in Charlotte.
“Consistency is key,” Worsham said. “Jon O, Nicky and the whole DHL team used all summer to work on a tune up. We have been able to master going down a hot track and cold track. We have minimized mistakes and are focused on the end prize.”
In Top Fuel, Brown sprinted past J.R. Todd in the final round of last year’s event and then won the next two events en route to his second world title. Brown will take the points lead into the Countdown, but he’ll have to get by a host of talented drivers, including Doug Kalitta, who is second in points, Steve Torrence, three-time 2016 winner Brittany Force, eight-time world champion Tony Schumacher, who won in Indy, Shawn Langdon, Richie Crampton, Clay Millican and Leah Pritchett.
Enders raced past Vincent Nobile in the final round in Charlotte last year and earned her second consecutive world championship. But Enders starts the Countdown in ninth this year and will need a strong turnaround to catch the likes of points leader Jason Line and Greg Anderson, who both have seven wins this season. Others to watch include four-time 2016 runner-up Bo Butner, Denver winner Allen Johnson, Brainerd winner Drew Skillman, Nobile, Shane Gray, Jeg Coughlin and Chris McGaha, who won in Indy.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Hines rode past Matt Smith for the win, earning his fourth world championship at the final race of the season. Hines, a three-time NHRA Carolina Nationals winner, is red-hot with five victories and the points lead, taking the win in Indy. Teammate Eddie Krawiec, who has three wins this year, is second in points, while Englishtown winner Angelle Sampey, alligator farmer Jerry Savoie, Sonoma winner LE Tonglet, Hector Arana, Chip Ellis, Smith, Hector Arana Jr. and Cory Reed round out the Countdown field.
The NHRA Carolina Nationals will also feature thrilling competition in the NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series as well as the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, where the future stars of the sport earn their racing stripes.
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 3:15 and 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 16, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Sept. 17, at 12:45 and 3 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for noon on Sunday, Sept. 18.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call 800-455-FANS (3267). Tickets also are available online at www.zmaxdragway.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.
NHRA CAROLINA NATIONALS FACT SHEET
WHAT: Ninth annual NHRA Carolina Nationals, the 19th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and the first of six races in the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship playoffs. 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.
WHERE: zMAX Dragway – Track is located on Hwy 29 off I-85 at exit 49 (Speedway Blvd.) in the Concord, N.C. area.
COURSE: Championship drag strip; Track elevation is 630 feet above sea level.
WHEN: Friday through Sunday, Sept. 16-18
FRIDAY, Sept. 16 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
NHRA J&A SERVICE PRO MOD SERIES qualifying at 2:30 and 5 p.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 3:15 and 5:30 p.m.
SATURDAY, Sept. 17 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying and eliminations
NHRA J&A SERVICE PRO MOD SERIES qualifying at 12:15 p.m.; first round of eliminations at 2:30 p.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 12:45 and 3 p.m.
SUNDAY, Sept. 18 – Pre-race ceremonies, 11 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at noon
Friday, Sept. 16, FS1 will televise one hour of qualifying coverage at 6 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, Sept. 18, FS1 will televise one hour of qualifying coverage at 11 a.m. (ET).
Sunday, Sept. 18, FS1 will televise three hours of live finals coverage starting at 2:30 p.m. (ET).
2015 EVENT WINNERS:
Antron Brown, Top Fuel; Del Worsham, Funny Car; Erica Enders, Pro Stock; Andrew Hines, Pro Stock Motorcycle.
Top Fuel – 3.713 sec. by J.R. Todd, March ’15; 332.18 mph by Spencer Massey, April ’12.
Funny Car – 3.934 sec. by Alexis DeJoria, April ’16; 323.50 mph by Matt Hagan, April ’16.
Pro Stock – 6.455 sec. by Jason Line, March ’15; 215.48 mph by Greg Anderson, March ’15.
Pro Stock Motorcycle – 6.794 sec. and 199.88 mph by Hector Arana Jr., March ’15.
Top Fuel – 3.671 sec. by Steve Torrence, July ’16, Sonoma, Calif.; 332.75 mph by Spencer Massey, Aug. ’15, Brainerd, Minn.
Funny Car – 3.832 by Del Worsham, Aug. ’16, Seattle; 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: Order tickets by phone at (800) 455-FANS. Tickets also are available online at www.zmaxdragway.com.
GLENDORA, CA — Point standings (top 10) entering into the NHRA Carolina Nationals, the first race of the six-race NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship.
1. Antron Brown, 2,110; 2. Doug Kalitta, 2,080; 3. Steve Torrence, 2,070; 4. Tony Schumacher, 2,060; 5. Brittany Force, 2,050; 6. J.R. Todd, 2,040; 7. Shawn Langdon, 2,030; 8. Clay Millican, 2,020; 9. Richie Crampton, 2,010; 10. Leah Pritchett, 2,000.
1. Ron Capps, 2,110; 2. Del Worsham, 2,080; 3. Matt Hagan, 2,070; 4. Courtney Force, 2,060; 5. Jack Beckman, 2,050; 6. Robert Hight, 2,040; 7. Tommy Johnson Jr., 2,030; 8. John Force, 2,020; 9. Tim Wilkerson, 2,010; 10. Alexis DeJoria, 2,000.
1. Jason Line, 2,110; 2. Greg Anderson, 2,080; 3. Bo Butner, 2.070; 4. Allen Johnson, 2,060; 5. Vincent Nobile, 2,050 6. Drew Skillman, 2,040; 7. Chris McGaha, 2,030; 8. Shane Gray, 2,020; 9. Erica Enders, 2,010; 10. Jeg Coughlin, 2,000.
Pro Stock Motorcycle
1. Andrew Hines, 2,110; 2. Eddie Krawiec, 2,080; 3. Angelle Sampey, 2,070; 4. Jerry Savoie, 2,060; 5. LE Tonglet, 2,050; 6. Chip Ellis, 2,040; 7. Hector Arana Jr, 2,030; 8. Hector Arana, 2,020; 9. Matt Smith, 2,010; 10. Cory Reed, 2,000.
About National Hot Rod Association
Headquartered in Glendora, Calif., NHRA is the primary sanctioning body for the sport of drag racing in the United States. NHRA presents 23 national events featuring the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series and NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series. NHRA provides competition opportunities for drivers of all levels in the NHRA Summit Racing Series and the NHRA Drags: Street Legal Style presented by AAA. NHRA also offers NHRA Jr. Street for teens and the Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League for youth ages 5 to 17. In addition, NHRA owns and operates five racing facilities: Atlanta Dragway in Georgia; Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville in Florida; National Trail Raceway in Ohio; Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis; and Auto Club Raceway at Pomona in Southern California. For more information, log on to NHRA.com, or visit the official NHRA pages on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
Source: National Hot Rod Association