Worsham a quiet but serious threat

Updated: February 12, 2005, 10:13 AM ET
By Bill Stephens | Special to ESPN.com

POMONA, Calif. -- The red-hot rivalry between 13-time NHRA POWERade Funny Car champion John Force and Schumacher Racing's Whit Bazemore has delivered endless episodes of on-track and off-track fireworks for the better part of the last decade.

And Force has openly admitted that Ron Capps gives him nightmares and his former driver -- and last year's F/C champion -- Tony Pedregon convinced the sport's winningest driver he had "hired his own assassin."

But last year, the driver who came the closest to overhauling Force's bid to win his unprecedented 13th championship wasn't Bazemore, or Capps, or Pedregon.

It was Del Worsham.

Worsham won five races in 2004, the same as Force, and finished a career-best second in the final points standings. This year, Worsham relishes his low profile persona and clearly believes his team, which includes his father and co-tuner, Chuck, and a second CSK Chevy Monte Carlo driven by Phil Burkart, can sneak up on the Funny Car class as a whole and perhaps ride their somewhat unheralded operation to the POWERade title.

"I don't mind the mega-teams and the high profile superstars looking right past us at all," said Worsham on Friday as qualifying for the 45th Carquest Winternationals was washed out by rain.

"We don't have much ego around here, and if you're the kind of guy who likes to draw attention to himself you won't last long on this team. We basically focus on the work, and on winning.

"Making bold statements or sticking our necks out to create a stir isn't what we do around here. That's not me, and it never will be. In the old days, the guys at CSK would sometimes hint around that maybe we ought to be controversial because some of those guys get on TV a lot. Once we started winning, the CSK people figured out you get a lot more publicity when you're in the Winner's Circle than you do trying to be outlandish. They like winning, and so do we."

On the subject of dethroning Force or his team -- a feat that only Cruz Pedregon has successfully accomplished since 1990 -- Worsham is both a realist and a racer. Outpointing Team Castrol's massive racing machine has been the goal of countless teams over the past 15 years. The challenge is daunting to Worsham, but not out of reach.

"It's not only possible, it has to happen at some point, whether it's us or some other team doing the trick," Worsham said. "They're very good over there. They're a dynasty in the purest sense of the word. The Yankees, Patriots, or Lakers, at their very best, could only dream of dominating like Force does. But, in the end, it's a long year and until anyone shows they can knock the guy off the throne with the power and consistency it will take, we're all just looking up at him and hoping.

"I worry about beating every guy in the class, they're all that good," he said. "I have a lot of respect for my competitors, and hopefully we've earned a little respect too."

Bill Stephens covers NHRA for ESPN.com.

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