Del Worsham, shown during qualifying on Friday, leads Spencer Massey in… (Jason Zindroski / US Presswire )
Del Worsham has had a decent drag racing career, finishing in the top 10 in points 14 times in the previous 20 seasons. However, he has never had a season like this one.
He came into the National Hot Rod Assn. Finals trailing points leader Spencer Massey by two points and now, after three days of qualifying at the Auto Club Speedway in Pomona, he leads Massey by eight.
Worsham had the fastest qualifying times twice, including Saturday, and ended up with eight bonus points. He earned another eight points for being the No. 1 qualifier going into Sunday's elimination round. Massey earned five bonus points and five for being the No. 4 qualifier.
That eight-point lead puts Worsham in the driver's seat but hardly guarantees he will win his first national title. It all comes down to the four elimination-round runs on the final day of the NHRA 22-event season. A win in each run is worth 20 points.
The points leader in the funny car division continues to be Matt Hagan, who now is in front of Jack Beckman by 12 points. Hagan earned three more bonus points Saturday by turning in the best run of the day with an elapsed time of 4.033 and a top speed of 315.27 miles per hour. And he got eight points for being the top qualifier.
Hagan made his run during the first of two scheduled qualifying sessions. Midway through the second session, racing was stopped because of light rain, which came and went during the day, and Hagan was in the bottom half of that session.
The entire second session in top fuel was canceled.
The battle for the top fuel title comes down to a four-man fray. Antron Brown got back into the mix Saturday with a qualifying run of 3.848 seconds and 319.37 mph. He needed a good run to make the 16-car elimination field. Brown, No. 3 in points, trails Worsham by 25 points and leads the No. 4 qualifier, defending champion Larry Dixon, by 22. Brown qualified in the No. 7 spot.
Worsham, a member of the Al-Anabi Racing team, as is Dixon, will be tough to beat if he remains as hot as he was during qualifying.
"Our game plan coming in was to gather some of those points during qualifying," he said, "and that's what we did. We ran well and did everything we could do."
His run Saturday of 3.773 seconds, the best of the day, made him the No. 1 qualifier. Massey, meanwhile, had the top speed of the day and the meet, hitting 325.06 over the 1,000-foot course. But his time of 3.804 was fourth best of the day and fourth best of the meet. The No. 2 and 3 qualifiers were Dixon and Tony Schumacher.
Worsham, 41, is a native of Southern California. He was born in Whittier, raised in San Clemente and currently lives in Chino Hills. He is in the process of moving to Villa Park to be closer to his shop and his drag racing father Chuck.
His season has included six event wins and now seven top qualifying positions. Asked whether it had been a dream season, Worsham said, "If it is really going to be a dream season we need to finish it off like we want to."
Hagan knows all about finishing things off. Last year he came into the elimination round with a 38-point lead and was eliminated in his first run.
"I learned so much last year," Hagan said. "I'm taking a more laid-back approach this year. Putting pressure on yourself doesn't do any good."