Milestone man: Fresh off new NHRA ET record, Del Worsham to make 500th career start

(Photos courtesy Kalitta Racing)
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Milestones just seem to keep coming Del Worsham’s way.

At the most recent NHRA national event in Seattle nearly two weeks ago, the defending Funny Car champion broke the national elapsed time record in his class, covering the 1,000-foot drag strip in a blistering 3.832 seconds.

“Setting the national record was really cool,” Worsham told NBCSports.com. “It is exciting for Kalitta Motorsports and the entire DHL Toyota team to have the success that we are having.”

But Worsham isn’t resting on the laurels of his new record – he wants to reset it yet again.

“There is more and the record will be reset soon by someone, hopefully us,” he said.

Now, Worsham is set for his next major milestone. When he lines up for the first round of eliminations Sunday at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd Raceway in Brainerd, Minnesota, Worsham will make the 500th start of his drag racing career (combined between Funny Car and Top Fuel).

NHRA Drag Racing

“It’s feels good,” Worsham said. “When I started, it never entered my mind or was a thought that I could be able to hit 500 career starts.”

When Worsham won the Funny Car championship last season, he moved into very exclusive company, becoming only the third driver in NHRA history to win both a Funny Car and Top Fuel championship (Worsham won the latter in 2011).

The only other two drivers to achieve that rare feat are now-retired drag racing heavyweights: Kenny Bernstein and Gary Scelzi.

Worsham has done and seen a lot in his lengthy drag racing career. Since earning NHRA Rookie of the Year honors in 1991, he’s amassed an impressive resume:

* 38 wins (30 in Funny Car, which ranks him in the top-10 all-time; he also has eight Top Fuel wins)

* Has reached 63 final rounds (52 in Funny Car, 11 in Top Fuel)

* Final round winning percentage: 60.3 percent overall, 57.7 percent in Funny Car

* Has qualified No. 1 20 times (13 Funny Car, 7 Top Fuel)

* 545 round wins (13th all-time)

* Still holds the record as the youngest driver to win a Funny Car race (21 years, 2 months – 1991 Atlanta)

Now, Worsham is ready to chase yet another milestone: his second straight Funny Car title and third championship overall. It all starts with the six-race Countdown to the Championship after the upcoming U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis.

Speaking of which, Worsham is looking to repeat, if not surpass, yet another milestone he set in last year’s Countdown: winning four of the playoffs’ six races to win the championship.

“Being two races out from the Countdown, I feel like our team is starting to get a pretty good handle on the current setup,” Worsham said. “I feel like we have a shot at the title.

“There is also a lot of racing to be done and we learned last year: getting hot in September, October and November is where the Mello Yello Championship is won.”

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Ken Roczen signs with HEP Progressive Ecstar Suzuki for 2023

Roczen Progressive Ecstar Suzuki
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ANAHEIM, California – Ken Roczen will make the move from HRC Honda to H.E.P. Motorsports with the Progressive Ecstar Suzuki team, ending a long and eventful offseason that saw his split from his longstanding team after he committed to running World Supercross (WSX).

“H.E.P. Motorsports is thrilled to announce that the team has signed Ken Roczen as its premier rider for the 2023 season,” the team announced on Instagram. “Former AMA Motocross champion Roczen will be aboard a Suzuki RM-Z450. Roczen, who won his most recent championship on a Suzuki, will be reunited with the brand and bring his exciting style, determination, and grit back to the RM Army.

“Ken Roczen will compete in the upcoming 2023 Supercross and Motocross Championship series which is set to start on January 7 at Anaheim Stadium in Southern California.”

For Roczen, it is a return to the bike of his youth and on which he had some of his greatest professional success.

“This thing has been going on for weeks and weeks and weeks in the making, but there was so much uncertainty,” Roczen told NBC Sports during Monster Energy Supercross Media Sessions. “It was a very unique situation. I just finally signed two nights ago, so it’s really only legit once the ink hits the paper. It’s been in the works for a long time, but there were just a lot of questions and a lot of input from a lot of other teams too.

“Good things take time, and I’m okay with that. I grew up riding Suzuki. Ot’s like a homecoming. It’s a special feeling”

Roczen won the 2016 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship on a Suzuki before making the move to Honda. That year he won nine of 12 Nationals and finished no worse than second as he easily outpaced Eli Tomac by 86 points. He finished third in his next Pro Motocross outing in 2018 after sitting out the outdoor season in 2017.

“I am beyond excited to reconnect with Suzuki for the 3rd time in my career. We’ve had a lot of success in the past and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish together in our future.” Roczen said in the Instagram post.