They may drive Funny Cars, but Del Worsham and Jack Beckman are not laughing heading into this weekend’s race at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, California.
Worsham, Beckman are all business as they fight it out for the NHRA Funny Car championship in the season-ending Auto Club Finals.
Worsham, who is seeking his first career Funny Car title – which would make him one of only three drivers in NHRA history to have won both Top Fuel and Funny Car championships in a career – holds a slim 38-point edge over Beckman, who won the 2012 Funny Car crown.
“To win the (Top Fuel) championship in 2011 was definitely very special, something that I could never describe or even tell you how special it was,” Worsham said in a media release. “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.
“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. 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.”
Beckman, who has a Funny Car-high seven wins this season, isn’t trying to overthink his chances. He knows what has to be done.
“We’re still two rounds out,” Beckman said. “It’s real simple. We need to out qualify (Worsham) at Pomona and we need him on the same side of the (elimination) 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.”
Tommy Johnson Jr., meanwhile, is a distant 97 points behind Worsham but still mathematically in the hunt. Ron Capps is 140 points back, but his chances are slim.
As many as 150 points can be earned by any one driver in an NHRA race.
Two NHRA championships have already been decided: Antron Brown clinched his second Top Fuel crown in four years two weeks ago at Las Vegas. That’s the same location that Erica Enders clinched her second consecutive Pro Stock championship, the only female to date to ever win a title in the so-called “door slammer” category.
One other championship is also to be determined this weekend.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Louisiana alligator farmer Jerry Savoie is looking to take a bite out of Andrew Hines’ bid for a second straight and fifth career title.
Hines has come on strong during the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoff, winning three of the four races he’s captured this season. He beat Savoie in the final round at Las Vegas to increase his points lead to 46 over Savoie. Also still in contention is Hines’ teammate, Eddie Krawiec, who is 83 points back.
“I’m trying to not put any pressure on myself,” said the 32-year-old Hines, who would be the youngest competitor in NHRA history to claim five world titles. “I feel like I have a good Harley and I just need to go out and try to do my job.
“The team is doing a good job and I’m just trying to be consistent. If I get a fifth (championship) that would be fantastic, but I’m trying to treat it like any other race. It’s something I’ve tried to do over the last couple years and it’s worked really well.”
Savoie, meanwhile, has his eyes both on wrestling the championship away from Hines, but also to potentially set a Pro Stock Motorcycle milestone.
“There’s absolutely a chance to go 200 (miles per hour),” said Savoie, who has three wins this season. “We went almost 199 in Dallas and the conditions in Pomona are going to be better. We definitely think we have a chance. We’ve got a good program going on right now and if we find it, (the motorcycle) will go 200.
“We’ve got a couple of goals in Pomona and we want to run 200 if it’s there. But we also want to go out there and try to win the race and see what happens.”