Del Worsham leaving a dream ride to chase a dream
Two roads diverged in a two-lane blacktop path and, for Del Worsham, he decided to take the one less traveled.
A two-time NHRA champion, Worsham chose family over fame, walking away from a championship contending Funny Car ride to return home to the family drag racing operation to race alongside his father, Chuck Worsham.
Worsham is no stranger to the less traveled path, having stepped away from a championship ride with Alan Johnson and Al Anabi racing to mentor rookie driver Alexis DeJoria in 2012. And before he knew it, he was back behind the wheel of the DHL Funny Car, driving again.
“A lot of things really kind of played into it, but the major reason and the biggest thing on my mind, the biggest thing that influenced me to make this decision was I’m not getting any younger, and my dad’s not getting any younger,” Worsham admitted. “My dad’s out there racing still with our family car, and they’re doing well, and he’s active.”
Worsham has a strong loyalty to his father who, back in 1991, gave the teenager his first chance to drive a nitro-burning Funny Car. Truth be told, the first time Worsham ever drove a fuel Funny Car was before he'd ever exceeded 100 miles per hour in a street car.
“I really enjoy racing with my dad,” Worsham explained. “I’ve always been a family racing guy. Him and I have always raced together. As long as I still have a little bit of driving in me, and he still has a little bit of drive in him to want to go out and race, I think we should race together.”
The Worshams worked their way from low budget independents into a fully-sponsored two-car team in the late 1990s, bearing the branding of CSK Auto Parts, finishing in the top four in championship points earnings four times.
Then, with no warning, the sponsorship abruptly came to an end.
“When the whole CSK thing came to an end in 2008, it just didn’t end the way I thought it should have. We weren’t running our best; things were just kind of in disarray,” Worsham said. “You could kind of tell the thing was coming to an end. I really just wanted the opportunity to go back out and race with my dad again. And maybe kind of tie up some loose ends that he and I didn’t really get a chance to tie up.”
Worsham, at this time, has no sponsorship lined up, making it difficult for him to paint a clear picture for 2017.
“That’s probably the most asked question I’ve had so far, about who is my sponsor,” Worsham admitted. “I couldn’t really look for sponsors or do work or even mention it because I was employed by Kalitta. And it just was very unethical to be out there trying to get your own sponsorship and build your own team when you’re employed by somebody else. I just couldn’t do that.”
Worsham said he realized toward the end of the 2016 season that his return to drive for Kalitta Motorsports was unlikely.
“It was right at the end of the season when I finally made the decision,” Worsham said. “The Kalitta team is expanding very fast right now. They’re adding teams, they’re getting bigger, and there were some personnel changes coming around and being made. It seemed like, during this whole time when they were getting ready to make their personnel changes if I was going to leave, it was a good time to cut ties.
“They’ve been great to me. I didn’t want to burn any bridges. I may have to walk back over again someday. So, I spoke with Jim [Oberhofer] and I spoke with Jon [Oberhofer], and Nicky Boninfante, and everybody understood why I was doing it. I wasn’t leaving for another job that paid more, and I wasn’t trying to get them into a bidding war where ‘If you do this I’ll stay.’
“This is strictly a personal reason to go back and race with my dad again and get to spend a little bit of time with him while he’s still in a physical condition he can race and I’m still in a physical condition where I can drive. It’s just a matter of putting together some funding at this point.”
Worsham took a brief vacation following the season and, as early as Monday, was already shaking the trees in an attempt to bring together a game plan for 2017.
“Working with some of our old contacts right now and trying to get some funding put together,” Worsham said. “I kind of jumped into this with no real plan other than a dream again. It kind of reminds me of 1996. You know, I finished up 1996 and didn’t know how I was going to race in 1997, but I knew we were going to. It worked out.
“I got an amazing phone call about this time of the year 20 years ago at 6 a.m. from CSK Auto saying that they wanted to go racing. And it changed my life. I’m hoping 20 years later history can repeat itself.”
Bobby Bennett is the Publisher/Editor of CompetitionPlus.com, a leading independent online drag racing magazine, since 1999. For the latest in dragster news worldwide, visit www.competitionplus.com or follow on Twitter @competitionplus.