Winner of the 2015 AAA Midwest Nationals and the defending Mello Yello Funny Car Series champion, dragster driver Del Worsham is back at Gateway Motorsports Park this weekend looking to repeat his championship and move closer to points leader Ron Capps with five races left in the Countdown to the Championship.
And so when Worsham arrived at Gateway this week to start preparing for the fifth annual AAA Insurance Midwest Nationals, he was all smiles.
He’s glad to be back.
“Gateway is just a great facility. Ever since (Curtis) Francois took over you can tell they take great pride in what they do here,” he said. “The place is immaculate and and they take wonderful care of the drivers and make sure the spectators have a great time when they attend an event here.
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“When I pull into Gateway, it’s a place that I say I love competing at.’’
Worsham has raced in more than 500 NHRA Association events at tracks all over the United States. He has qualified for 66 career finals combined in both the Top Fuel and Funny Car Divisions, winning 39 times overall and is one of only three drivers to win series championships in both classses.
The 46-year-old Worsham will drive his DHL Toyota Funny Car in the first round of qualifying on Friday when the 2016 event begins at Gateway. With a win at Brainerd and four other championship round appearances to his credit, Worsham trailed Capps by 42 points in the hotly contested Funny Car Class.
A member of the Kalitta Motorsports Racing Team, Worsham was one of four NHRA drivers who met with the media on Thursday to bring attention to the three-day event which concludes on Sunday afternoon with the finals.
One of the true greats of the NHRA, Worsham’s record speaks for itself. The 2011 Top Fuel champion inn addition to winning the 2015 championship, Worsham has 66 final round appearances and 39 wins. A total of 31 of his wins have come in the Funny Car Division.
“The car is running great and we’re having a good year year,’’ Worsham said. “We’ve had three semifinal appearances and three poles. We’re just looking to continue to race strong here the last five races in the Chase and see where we can finish.’’
Todd comes home, sort of
Also a member of the Kalitta Motorsports Team, J.R. Todd of Indianapolis is currently sixth in the Top Fuel Dragster Class, trailing among others, series leader Antron Brown.
With a win at Sonoma and a career high round wins to his credit, the 35-year-old Todd is having a solid season. But the 2006 NHRA Rookie of the Year wants more.
“It’s been a good year. We were able to get a win on the western swing in Sonoma and we were running well and with a lot of confidence coming into the start of the Countdown, but we kind of stubbed our toe in Charlotte first race when he lost in the first round. We kind of put ourselves into a little bit of a hole to start,’’ Todd said. “We’ve still got five races to do but we need to race a little better, get into the later rounds and maybe win a race or two if we want to contend for the championship.’’
Todd, whose previous best finish came in 2014 when he placed second in the series championship, expects many friends and family members to make the three hour trek from Indianapolis this week to see him compete.
“That’s kind of nice. My family doesn’t get to see me run a lot and its also nice to be able to leave home on Thursday morning and go home on Sunday night. I just hope we run well here this weekend.’’
Track and ticket information
The action begins on Friday. The midway opens at 11 a.m. with the first round of qualifying beginning at 2:15 p.m. The Midway opens at 10 a.m. on Saturday with more qualifying sessions from 1 to 7:30 p.m.
On Sunday, the Midway opens at 9 a.m. with pre-race introductions set for 9 a.m. Eliminations begin at 11 a.m. with the finals set for 2:40 p.m.
Tickets to the event are available by calling Gateway Motorsports Park at (618) 215-8888 or by visiting www.gatewaymsp.com. Tickets may also be purchased at the speedway ticket office. Children 12 and under are admitted free.
AAA INSURANCE NHRA MIDWEST NATIONALS GATEWAY MOTORSPORTS PARK
Friday, September 23
11 a.m. — Midway opens.
2:15 p.m. — Pro Mod qualifying session.
2:45 p.m. — Pro Stock Motorcycle and Pro Stock qualifying session.
3:30 p.m. – Funny Car and Top Fuel Dragster qualifying session.
4:45 p.m. — Pro Mod qualifying session.
5:15 p.m. — Pro Stock Motorcycle and Pro Stock qualifying session.
6 p.m. – Funny Car and Top Fuel Dragster qualifying.
7:30 p.m. – Track closed.
Saturday, September 24
10 a.m. — Midway opens.
1 p.m. — Pro Mod qualifying session.
1:45 p.m. — Pro Stock Motorcycle and Pro Stock qualifying session.
2:30 p.m. – Top Fuel Dragster and Funny Car qualifying session.
3:45 p.m. – First round of Pro Mod eliminations.
4:15 p.m. — Pro Stock Motorcycle and Pro Stock qualifying session.
5 p.m. – Top Fuel Dragster and Funny Car qualifying session.
7:30 p.m. – Track closed.
Sunday, September 25
9 a.m. — Midway opens.
10 a.m. — Pre-race ceremonies.
11 a.m. – First round of Top Fuel Dragster and Funny Car Eliminations.
Noon – First round of Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle eliminations.
12:20 p.m. – Second round of Pro Mod eliminations.
12:45 p.m. – Second round of Top Fuel Dragster and Funny Car eliminations.
1:15 p.m. – Second round of Pro Stock Motorcycle and Pro Stock eliminations.
1:30 p.m. — Pro Mod semi-finals.
2:15 p.m. – Top Fuel Dragster and Funny Car semi-finals.
2:33 p.m. — Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle semi-finals.
2:40 p.m. — Pro Mod finals.
2:45 p.m. — Sportsman finals.
3:30 p.m. — Pro Stock Motorcycle and Pro Stock finals.
3:37 p.m. – Funny Car and Top Fuel Dragster finals.