Worsham's Stress-filled Weekend Ends Early (1 Viewer)

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Del Worsham could not have been faulted for saying "No thank you" to a first-round date on Sunday, but there was never any question that he'd be suited up and strapped in to answer the call. He could be excused for equating the Norwalk race track with negative things, but his high regard for the track has never wavered. In the end, when his race ended in a puff of tire smoke in round one, all the popular Checker, Schuck's, Kragen driver felt was sheer disappointment.

Worsham's first visit to Norwalk was in 2000, when he participated in the first of many match races at the facility, and on that mid-summer night he crashed hard into both guard walls, destroying his race car. He returned to Norwalk this weekend, but this time he was accompanied by the full NHRA tour at the inaugural Summit Racing Equipment Nationals. Unfortunately, bad things happened again, and Worsham left the track minus one race car, one Impala body, and a trailer load of parts.

"The only thing I'm smiling about right now is this race track and these amazing fans, who have packed the place," Worsham said. "We knew we were adding a jewel to the schedule when Norwalk joined the tour, but I don't think any of us knew just how great it was going to be. For us, it was a massive struggle all weekend, and we destroyed more stuff than ever dreamed of leaving on the ground, but the Norwalk experience was great.

"Despite all the wreckage, I was excited to race this morning and we felt we had every chance to win rounds today. The only hitch to the plan was the fact we broke so many parts we had to put all new stuff on the car, so all of our favorite race-day parts, that we know so well and are so comfortable with, were laying in pile at the back of the pit. You never know how new motors and new blowers are really going to act until you run them, and in round one we just made more power than we thought we would. When you do that, you might get lucky and strap a huge one on the board, but you're probably going to smoke the tires. We got Option B."

On Friday, Worsham joined a long list of tire smokers in Q1, but came back for the night session aiming to put himself deep into the field. Instead, a major engine detonation left all eight rods in mangled shape, destroying a new motor and bending the chassis in the process, and Worsham's 4.931 left him below the cut line going into what promised to be a sunny Saturday.

"We put ourselves in a major hole there, blowing everything up and breaking the car," Worsham said. "We had to swap chassis overnight, put all new stuff together, and then come out in the heat of the day to try to bump our way into a field full of teams that had almost all hit home runs on Friday night. I guess if you try to dream up one of the toughest challenges in this sport, that scenario would be near the top of the list."

On Worsham's first Saturday pass, made in the early afternoon with a bright sun heating up the track, he cruised down the quarter-mile on a super-stout run, easily outrunning every other car in the session to about 1,000 feet. At that point, though, things went from very good to very bad, and Worsham was again the subject of TV highlight reels, ranging from ESPN to CNN Headline News. When something in the valve train caused the blower to launch off the manifold, cracks in the hood of the beautiful CSK Impala SS allowed 300 mph worth of air to enter places where wind doesn't need to be. In a split second, most of the carbon fiber body was shredded, launched, and destroyed, as Worsham rode out the madness in a rolling chassis.

"It was just trucking, running great, and then BOOM and all I saw was daylight," Worsham said. "I couldn't believe it, but there it was. The absolutely only good thing that came from it was the E.T., which would have been a lot better had the car not blown apart."

Worsham clanged across the finish line in 4.873 seconds, knocking Gary Scelzi out of the field and putting himself in the precarious No. 16 spot, with one session remaining. Knowing they had more pressing matters on their hands, the Team CSK brain trust made the immediate decision to sit out the final session and, as Worsham put it, "If we held onto the 16th spot, that would be great, but it was all kind of out of our hands by then. We needed to fix the car again."

In that final session, Jerry Toliver, Scott Kalitta, and finally Scelzi, all lined up to take their shots at Worsham's bump spot. All three failed, giving Worsham some hope and happiness as he looked forward to Sunday.

"It wasn't that easy out there in Q4, so the odds of any of those guys knocking us out weren't really all that great," Worsham said. "But, I also knew all three of them were capable of doing it, and all I could think of was that we'd destroyed so much stuff here and in the end we had a chance of getting a big DNQ as the icing on the cake. Talk about salt in the wound or adding insult to injury. I went up to the line to watch, and one by one they all missed, so I figured that was our sign that all the hard work, coming back from two big bangs, was worth it."

Holding on to the 16th spot, Worsham earned a date with No. 1 qualifier Robert Hight in round one. His team spent another night rebuilding a mangled race car, and again finished the job by breaking a large number of brand new parts out of the cabinets. It's likely the new supercharger was the culprit against Hight, as Worsham's car powered hard off the line but smoked the tires by the 330 mark.

"It wasn't a ton more power, but it was more and it was obviously too much," Worsham said. "You can lay that run over a perfect one on the computer, and the differences are tiny, but even a tiny change can tip you over the edge in one of these cars. We just powered right into tire spin, and I did pedal it once but he was long gone. It's a terrible feeling to have to coast so slowly down the track, knowing you've lost and your day is over. Trust me, it's no fun at all."

And neither is making CNN Headline News the hard way.
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