NHRA: Clash of the Titans; Funny Car Title Tilt Comes Down to Worsham & Beckman in Pomona

RaceChaser Staff Drag Racing, Featured, NHRA, West 0 Comments

POMONA, Calif. – official series release — NHRA photo —

The last time Del Worsham needed an impressive performance at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona to win a world championship, he claimed a thrilling victory to win his first Top Fuel title.

With his first Funny Car world championship up for grabs at this weekend’s 51st annual Auto Club NHRA Finals, Worsham will look to create that same magic to close out the 2015 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season. Should he claim a championship, Worsham would also become just the third driver in NHRA history to win a world title in both Top Fuel and Funny Car.

On the strength of three Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship victories in his 10,000-horsepower DHL Toyota Camry, Worsham takes a 38-point lead over Jack Beckman into the final race of the season. Tommy Johnson Jr. (97 points out of first) and Ron Capps (140 points behind) are still mathematically alive in what could be a spectacular finish to an already incredible 2015 season in the Funny Car class.

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Del Worsham (left) hopes to hold off Jack Beckman (right) for his first NHRA Funny Car championship on Sunday. (NHRA photos)

“I made the comment multiple times a real goal of ours, especially at the beginning of the season, was just to get to the finals with an opportunity to win the championship, the opportunity that if you win the race, you could be the Mello Yello NHRA champion,” Worsham said. “We accomplished that, got there. If we win the race, we will be the champions, I believe. It’s just kind of in our hands.”

Worsham and Beckman both lost in the second round in Las Vegas, leaving the door open for both Johnson and Capps, also ensuring plenty of drama could ensue in Pomona. Capps advanced to the semifinals in Vegas, while Johnson posted a runner-up finish to Robert Hight. Johnson, who has two victories and seven final round appearances in his Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T, could have closed the gap even further with a victory, but he knows he has a car capable of putting together something massive in Pomona.

“Going into Pomona, I am happy the car is running so well, but with as fast as our car has been, when we get (to the finals), I expect to win,” Johnson said. “I know a lot has to happen to have a shot at the championship, but I’d like to think we have a chance.”

Beckman, who held off Capps in a thrilling finale at Pomona in 2012 to win his first Funny Car world championship, needs his own Pomona magic to get past Worsham, but considering how memorable his year has been that is certainly not out of the question.

Beckman’s record-breaking season in his Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger R/T has included multiple world records and seven victories, but he knows the task ahead includes making up ground on Worsham with only four rounds left in the 2015 campaign.

“We’re still two rounds out,” Beckman said. “It’s real simple. We need to out qualify him at Pomona and we need him on the same side of the ladder as us and we need to beat him early. You want to talk about having to be perfect to win the championship and maybe that’s what the fans deserve to see.

“We will do everything we can to go to Pomona and be perfect and as flawless as a nitro Funny Car team can be. We have a great team right now and we are absolutely capable of winning that race, the thing is we have to win that race and we have to gain two rounds on Del.”

The four in the championship hunt will also have to deal with a loaded Funny Car Countdown field that includes reigning world champion Matt Hagan, Hight, 16-time world champion John Force, Tim Wilkerson, Alexis DeJoria and Cruz Pedregon.

It makes for a thrilling weekend for fans, but Worsham remembers rising to the occasion in 2011, winning the final two events that year to claim the Top Fuel world title. The scenario is slightly different this time around, as Worsham is the one being chased, but he remains thankful to just be in the position to claim a championship. That opportunity has him eager to compete for his second world title and Worsham plans to make the most of this weekend in Pomona.

“I didn’t start off drag racing or being a driver to win championships,” said Worsham, who has 37 career victories. “I started off just to get to drive a cool car, a Funny Car, something I’d watched my whole life. So to win the championship in 2011 was definitely very special, something that I could never describe or even tell you how special it was. But this chance now in a Funny Car, what I started in, being a part of this team, kind of being part of building this whole Funny Car team with Nicky (Bonifante), Jon-O (Oberhofer), (team owner) Connie Kalitta, building this thing for (the late) Scott (Kalitta), it would mean a lot to win the championship.”

CREDIT: NHRA Communications

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