(Photos courtesy NHRA)

NHRA: Del Worsham sets Funny Car ET record not once, but twice at Seattle

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Del Worsham had so much fun breaking the NHRA Funny Car national elapsed time record Saturday that he wound up doing it twice.

Last year’s Funny Car series champion, Worsham broke the NHRA Funny Car elapsed-time national record in the first of two qualifying sessions Saturday at Seattle’s Pacific Raceways in preparation for Sunday’s final eliminations of the Protect the Harvest NHRA Northwest Nationals. Worsham’s run was 3.841 seconds at 330.15 mph in his Toyota Camry.

But that wasn’t good enough for Worsham and crew chiefs Jon Oberhofer and Nicky Boninfante. Worsham then roared right back in the next round and re-set the new national record a little over an hour later, covering the 1,000-foot track with an eye-popping 3.832-second run at 330.88 mph.

In so doing, Worsham also earned his second straight No. 1 qualifying position, adding to the top qualifying spot he earned last week at Sonoma.. It was also his third No. 1 of the season and 20th of his career.

Now comes Sunday’s eliminations. Worsham is going for his third career win there, having previously won in Funny Car in 1999 and Top Fuel in 2011.

“We brought this car out at Denver and this thing has just been on fire,” Worsham said in a NHRA media release. “The car ran great numbers at Denver, went to Sonoma and qualified No. 1, and came here to Seattle and ran record times. It’s coming together at the right time of the year, but tomorrow is when it counts.”

Worsham’s two record-breaking runs were the anchor of what would be the five quickest runs in Funny Car history. The others to do so were Ron Capps (3.843 seconds), Courtney Force (3.855) and Jack Beckman (3.861). The previous record (3.862 seconds) had been set earlier this year at Topeka by two-time champ Matt Hagan.

2016_Del_Worsham headshot

Others that qualified No. 1 in their respective classes were eight-time champ Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel) and Vincent Nobile (Pro Stock). It was Schumacher’s 80th No. 1 qualifying position of his Top Fuel career (3.686 seconds at 323.58 mph). Schumacher hopes to earn his fourth career win at Pacific Raceways on Sunday.

Nobile, meanwhile, topped the Pro Stock class with a No. 1 qualifying run of 6.527 seconds at 211.49 mph.

NOTES: For those that may have missed the news Friday, Worsham’s Kalitta Motorsports teammate Alexis DeJoria is out of this weekend’s race due to suffering a fractured left pelvis last Sunday in a crash at Sonoma. DeJoria came into this weekend holding down the 10th and final spot for the upcoming six-race Countdown to the Championship. However, by missing this weekend, DeJoria will have just two chances to make sure she makes the Countdown — that is if she is able to return from her injury: two weeks from now in Brainerd, Minnesota, and the U.S. Nationals on Labor Day Weekend, her chance to make the playoffs.

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Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”