A model of consistency thus far during the 2015 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season, Del Worsham's second final-round appearance of the year meant his first time leading the points in Funny Car since returning to the class in 2013.
The best way to keep that strong start going for Worsham is a win at the site of his last victory, The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, this time at this weekend's 16th annual SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals.
Worsham broke a 46-race winless streak six months ago at the fall race in Las Vegas during the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship, also picking up his first Funny Car victory since 2009 in the process. With those good vibes in hand, Worsham is ready to keep his hot start going in 2015 at the controls of his 10,000 horsepower DHL Toyota Camry.
"We are off to a great start," Worsham said. "I've been most impressed with the consistency of our DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car. With the exception of a first-round loss in Gainesville, our Camry has performed and responded to everything we've asked. I think if we just continue to learn and trust our judgment, the DHL team should do well all season."
Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Alexis DeJoria (Funny Car) and Erica Enders-Stevens (Pro Stock) won this event one year ago. The race, which will be televised on ESPN2, marks the fifth of 24 events during a 2015 season that has seen Worsham's best early season start since returning to the class.
In addition to the final-round appearance at the recent NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, Worsham, the 2011 Top Fuel world champion, advanced to the championship round at Phoenix before falling to reigning Funny Car world champ Matt Hagan.
Along with some impressive consistency to open the season, Worsham and his Kalitta Motorsports team, led by crew chiefs Nick Bonifante and Jon Oberhofer, have shown the ability to run quick, going 3.997 in Phoenix in addition to a number of low 4.00s throughout the first four races. That is certainly impressive, but Worsham might be most impressed with how well the entire Kalitta Motorsports team, which includes Top Fuel drivers Doug Kalitta and J.R. Todd, and Funny Car driver DeJoria, continues to mesh.
"Kalitta Motorsports is very close-knit, and it very much reminds me of racing with my dad (Chuck Worsham)," Worsham said. "All the info is available to all teams. Nothing is hidden, and everyone wants every team to do well. I think everyone being close pulls the teams and drivers together, and everyone wants to help their fellow employees. It makes you want to do better for the team."
Worsham, who has 34 career victories and 26 in Funny Car, won't be standing pat with the points lead in the loaded Funny Car class. Kalitta Motorsports Funny Car drivers made a clean sweep in Vegas a year ago, but there are a host of star-studded challengers ready to grab those titles away from the Kalitta team.
Robert Hight, who fell in the final round to DeJoria, is seeking his first win at the track since 2012 and will be joined by John Force Racing teammates John Force and Courtney Force. Other top stars include five-time Vegas winner Ron Capps, defending world champ Matt Hagan, Tommy Johnson Jr., Charlotte winner Jack Beckman, and two-time world champ Cruz Pedregon.
But Worsham and his team also have a solid game plan as to what it takes to be successful this weekend in Las Vegas, which also marks a return to conventional drag racing following the Four-Wide Nationals.
"NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing in Las Vegas takes some discipline," Worsham said. "Las Vegas is a great city with lots to do, but we don't want to forget why we are there. It can also be warm, so a summertime tune-up could already be necessary. I don't feel there is any big adjustment from Four-Wide to conventional drag racing. I think it should be a piece of cake after [racing] in Charlotte. You still have to remember what side of the track you're on."
In Top Fuel, reigning world champion Schumacher began his run for his category record eighth title at this event last season, defeating Doug Kalitta in the final. Schumacher is the winningest driver in Las Vegas history with eight career victories, but will have to contend with the likes of three-time world champion Larry Dixon, a five-time winner at The Strip, Spencer Massey, Antron Brown, who won the most recent event in Charlotte, 2013 world champ Shawn Langdon, Richie Crampton, Steve Torrence, J.R. Todd and Brittany Force.
Pro Stock's Erica Enders-Stevens made a major statement at the SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals last season, taking victory in both the national event and the K&N Horsepower Challenge bonus event. Enders-Stevens, who secured a category-leading six wins on the season, also finished with her first career Pro Stock world championship title, making her the first woman to win a championship in the category. Her rookie teammate Drew Skillman is off to a stellar start, while other championship contenders include Summit Racing Equipment teammates Greg Anderson and Jason Line, Allen Johnson, Rodger Brogdon, Shane Gray, Jonathan Gray, Vincent Nobile, Larry Morgan, who won in Charlotte, and Chris McGaha.
The prestigious K&N Horsepower Challenge kicks off the Pro Stock event in style. Eight Pro Stock drivers will duel it out for bragging rights and a hefty paycheck on Saturday of race weekend. Enders-Stevens is the defending K&N Horsepower Challenge winner.
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 the highly skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and enjoy some cherished face time with their favorite NHRA drivers.
Pro qualifying begins on Friday, April 10, with sessions at 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, April 11, at 1:10 and 4:05 p.m. Pro Stock runs for the K&N Horsepower Challenge are scheduled for 1, 4 and 5 p.m. on Saturday. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, April 12.
SUMMITRACING.COM NHRA NATIONALS FACT SHEET
WHAT: 16th annual SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals, the fifth of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Drivers in three categories - Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock - earn points leading to 2015 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships.
WHERE: The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Las Vegas. Track is located approximately 15 miles north of downtown Las Vegas off Interstate 15.
WHEN: Friday through Sunday, April 10-12
FRIDAY, April 10 - LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 1:30 and 4:30 p.m.
SATURDAY, April 11- LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 1:10 and 4:05 p.m.
K&N HORSEPOWER CHALLENGE at 1, 4 and 5 p.m.
SUNDAY, April 12 - Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
Saturday, April 11, ESPN2 will televise two hours of qualifying coverage at 6 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, April 12, ESPN2 will televise three hours of eliminations coverage at 8 p.m. (ET).
2014 EVENT WINNERS: Tony Schumacher, Top Fuel; Alexis DeJoria, Funny Car; Erica Enders-Stevens, Pro Stock.
MOST VICTORIES: Larry Dixon, 4, TF; Tony Schumacher, 4, TF; Robert Hight, 3, FC; Greg Anderson, 3, PS; Jeg Coughlin, 3, PS; Kenny Bernstein, 2, TF; Cruz Pedregon, 2, FC; Mike Edwards, 2, PS; Allen Johnson, 2, PS.
K&N HORSEPOWER CHALLENGE VICTORIES: Greg Anderson, 4; Kurt Johnson, 4; Jeg Coughlin, 3; Bob Glidden, 3; Warren Johnson, 3; Larry Morgan, 3; Allen Johnson, 2; Jim Yates, 2; Bruce Allen, 2; Darrell Alderman, 1; Dave Connolly, 1; Erica Enders-Stevens, 1; Vincent Nobile, 1.
Top Fuel - 3.732 sec. by J.R. Todd, Nov. 2014 and 330.88 mph by Spencer Massey, Nov. 2014.
Funny Car - 3.983 sec. by Matt Hagan Nov. 2014 and 325.37 mph by Courtney Force, March. 2014.
Pro Stock - 6.576 sec. and 209.88 mph by Erica Enders-Stevens, Nov. 2014.
Top Fuel - 3.701 sec. by Antron Brown, Oct. 2012, Reading, Pa.; 332.18 mph by Spencer Massey, April 2012, Charlotte, N.C.
Funny Car - 3.965 sec. and 324.12 mph by John Force, Feb. 2014, Pomona, Calif.
Pro Stock - 6.455 sec. by Jason Line, March 2015, Charlotte, N.C.; 215.55 mph by Erica Enders-Stevens, May 2014, Englishtown N.J.
TICKETS: For tickets, call (800) 644-4444. Tickets also available online at www.lvms.com.
NHRA MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS STANDINGS
Points standings (top 10) for NHRA professional categories following the fourth of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.
Top Fuel: 1. Antron Brown, 354; 2. Tony Schumacher, 328; 3. Shawn Langdon, 312; 4. Spencer Massey, 286; 5. Doug Kalitta, 238; 6. Richie Crampton, 232; 7. Steve Torrence, 213; 8. Brittany Force, 192; 9. Clay Millican, 189; 10. J.R. Todd, 180.
Funny Car: 1. Del Worsham, 305; 2. Matt Hagan, 303; 3. Ron Capps, 279; 4. Tommy Johnson Jr., 239; 5. Robert Hight, 230; 6. John Hale, 224; 7. Jack Beckman, 208; 8. Cruz Pedregon, 206; 9. Courtney Force, 198; 10. Alexis DeJoria, 193.
Pro Stock: 1. Jason Line, 359; 2. Rodger Brogdon, 316; 3. Greg Anderson, 299; 4. Chris McGaha, 283; 5. Erica Enders-Stevens, 268; 6. Drew Skillman, 266; 7. Larry Morgan, 234; 8. Shane Gray, 199; 9. Vincent Nobile, 193; 10. Allen Johnson, 176.
Pro Stock Motorcycle: 1. Eddie Krawiec, 192; 2. Andrew Hines, 180; 3. Karen Stoffer, 148; 4. L.E. Tonglet, 128; 5. Hector Arana Jr., 116; 6. (tie) Shawn Gann, Angelle Sampey and Scotty Pollacheck, 103; 9. Matt Smith, 94; 10. Hector Arana, 88.