Del Worsham, left, and Shawn Langdon. Photo courtesy Kalitta Motorsports

NHRA: Del Worsham back at Kalitta Motorsports in new role with Shawn Langdon

Leave a comment

Del Worsham, one of only three NHRA drivers to win championships in both Top Fuel and Funny Car, has returned to Kalitta Motorsports, where he won the 2015 Funny Car title.

But instead of being behind the wheel, Worsham has stepped out of the cockpit and will move into a new role, serving as co-crew chief for another former champion, Shawn Langdon.

“For me, one of the huge plusses is the fact that Del is a championship driver and there are a lot of things that I can talk to him about,” Langdon said. “We speak that driver language to one another where I come in and say certain things that a lot of people don’t really understand.

Shawn Langdon. Photo: Kalitta Motorsports

“But I can walk right in and tell Del about it and he understands exactly what I’m saying and he can tell me how to improve.

“I grew up getting Del’s autograph when I was a kid. I was always a fan of Del because he was a younger kid coming in and he worked for everything he got. He was in a great position, but he excelled in what he did. He was a great driver, but he was always a little bit of an underdog – and I think it played into his favor. Del is one of the best out here, not only from a driver standpoint, but also from a crew chief perspective.”

Worsham will partner with Team Kalitta crew chief Nicky Boninfante on the Global Camry Funny Car. Boninfante was co-crew chief on Worsham’s Funny Car in 2015 when they won the championship.

Being a former Kalitta employee and champion, then watching J.R. Todd put the DHL Funny Car back into the championship for Team Kalitta (in 2018), and adding the excitement and commitment of Steve and Samantha Bryson, I figured we couldn’t go wrong,” Worsham said. “(Co-crew chief Nicky Boninfante) and I have worked magic together before and I would love nothing more than to bring that to the Global Funny Car.

“They have a championship-caliber driver in Shawn Langdon, the guys on the crew that have been part of our former championship team, a team owner that will give you every resource to succeed and a sponsor/friend who shares the same goals and enthusiasm.”

Del Worsham. (Photo courtesy NHRA)

It will be the second time Worsham has gone from the cockpit to crew chief. After winning the NHRA Top Fuel title, he retired from driving and moved to Kalitta Motorsports in 2012 as a crew chief before going back behind the wheel, culminating in his 2015 Funny Car title. He left the team after 2016 to return and drive for his family’s Funny Car team, Worsham Racing.

“I’ve worked with and been friends with Nicky Boninfante for 30 years, and we had magic together when we worked together when we won the Funny Car championship in 2015,” Worsham said. “We have spent a lot of time together on and off the track. We have raced together since the ‘80s. We compliment each other pretty well. Now, we need to go out and just produce and make this thing happen.”

Worsham is with Team Kalitta for this weekend’s NHRA preseason test at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix, in preparation for next weekend’s NHRA season-opening Lucas Oil Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, California.

Langdon won the NHRA Top Fuel championship in 2013, after replacing Worsham at Al-Anabi Racing. The two have been longtime friends and Worsham served as a consultant to the team in the final two races of 2018. Now, Worsham is a permanent fixture back again at Kalitta Motorsports going forward.

The timing was right and it was a terrific opportunity,” Worsham said. “It’s a great group of guys. There’s a lot of dedication here. I didn’t have a lot happening with our Worsham Racing and this was a great opportunity for this point in my career.

“We’re lucky to have Shawn. He was a big part of this. He’s a championship level driver. He’s proven it by winning multiple championships anywhere from junior dragster all the way to Top Fuel. He replaced me at Al-Anabi and went out and won a championship there. He has the credentials and he’s a proven winner.”

Langdon had equally high praise for being paired with Worsham.

“It’s a huge benefit to our team to bring on a guy like Del Worsham, who has a tremendous amount of experience and knowledge with these cars,” Langdon said. “He came on at the end of last year and helped me a ton.

“Not only will he help on the technical side, but there’s details he knows and can help me with on the driver’s side. We have a great opportunity to take our program to the next level and I’m really excited to have Global Electronic Technology on board along with Del and Nicky Boninfante. This is about as good as it gets and I’m really looking forward to this season.”

It was a difficult season at times for Langdon in 2018. He had never driven a Funny Car before last season, having a long tenure previously in Top Fuel and Super Comp, the latter which he also won two prior championships in.

“Last year was the first time in probably 20 years when I didn’t win a race in any car,” Langdon said. “So for me, that was a tough pill to swallow. It just makes me more motivated, probably more motivated than I’ve ever been. It would mean a lot to get a win for myself in Pomona.”

The transition from Top Fuel to Funny Car was difficult, Langdon readily admits.

I expected it to be a big learning curve, yet at the end of the year, it had been an even bigger adjustment than I had ever thought it was going to be,” he said. “It was a major learning curve.

“Even with a year under my belt, I’m still learning. The Funny Car was like nothing I’ve ever driven before. There’s no other car that reacts the same way this does. There’s really nothing to compare it to. You basically have to take something from each run you in make in a Funny Car and then start over again.”

But last year is in the past and 2019 is ahead. Langdon said he has just one goal for the upcoming season: “To win a championship.”

Kalitta Motorsports, based in Ypsilanti, Michigan, is celebrating its 60th anniversary in the NHRA this season. It has won two of the last four Funny Car championships with Worsham in 2015 and Todd last season.

The organization also announced its other crew chief pairings for the 2019 season:

* Kurt Elliott will serve as co-crew chief along with team owner/crew chief Connie Kalitta for the Top Fuel dragster driven by Richie Crampton.

* Rob Flynn continues as co-crew chief with Troy Fasching for the Top Fuel dragster driven by Doug Kalitta.

* Jon Oberhofer and Todd Smith return as co-crew chiefs for the Funny Car championship winning car driven by J.R. Todd.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Eli Tomac’s near-perfect season ended perfectly

ProMotocross.com
Leave a comment

From the start, Eli Tomac wanted to go into the season-ending race at Ironman Raceway with the 2020 red plate already in his possession. That final race has been know to devolve into muddy conditions and it is best not to leave things to chance.

For a rider with an almost perfect record of overall podium finishes, one would not have thought there would be much drama at the end of Round 11 at Budds Creek, but it took until the last lap of the final moto for Tomac to achieve his goal.

One reason was that Tomac’s near-perfect season was not so perfect. From the very beginning at Hangtown, Tomac struggled with poor starts to his events. Getting a bad jump out of the gate and finishing fourth in Moto 1 that weekend was not the auspicious beginning he wanted in search of his third consecutive 450 outdoor championship.

The hallmark of Tomac’s season has been overcoming bad starts. He rode through the field at Hangtown and nearly stood on the podium. Then he won Moto 2 and finished second overall. It was his first of nine consecutive overall podiums. Tomac came back the following week for a perfect sweep at Pala.

In Round 3, Tomac once again got off to a bad start. He finished fifth in Moto 1 at Thunder Valley – and then won Moto 2 in a duplication of his opening round.

In Round 5, Tomac had his worst performance until that time. He finished seventh in Moto 1. Nearly halfway through the season, a pattern was firmly established with his Moto 2 win.

Vanessa O’Brien, Kawasaki USA

One should recall that the hallmark of Tomac’s season was strong finishes. Four the next four weeks Tomac failed to podium only one time in a moto. On that occasion, he would stumble in Moto 2 at Spring Creek in Round 8 before scoring his second perfect race at Washougal.

And that is where it got interesting. Tomac left Washougal with a 50-point advantage over Marvin Musquin. It was just the scenario Tomac had seesawed his way through the season to achieve. But it was too good to be true.

In most of his previous bad performances, there was an extenuating circumstance for Tomac’s bad start: a fall or an off course excursion. This time, he simply rode an uninspired race and finished seventh again to match his worst single moto performance. He could not fully rebound in Moto 2 and finished third.

For the first time in 2019, Tomac failed to stand on the overall podium in fourth. Worse still, he lost 10 points to Musquin and no longer had his one-race cushion.

But this is a season of recovery for Tomac. At Budds Creek last week it was reported that Tomac’s lackluster performance in Washington was due to his overdoing his chores on his Colorado ranch. Rested and restored, Tomac scored his third perfect race with Moto 1 & 2 wins. And this time, he looked sharper than he had in any previous race.

Tomac did all the could do by winning both motos, but in the closing laps at Budds Creek he needed a little help to clinch the title. As it turned out, Tomac needed the perfect performance to clinch his third consecutive championship.

In Moto 1, he narrowly edged Ken Roczen and Musquin, to give the three championship contenders a sweep of the top three spots; that was not enough to regain his cushion.

Roczen was close enough to force Tomac into The Ironman needing to score points to permanently affix the red plate on his Kawasaki in 2020, but just as Tomac’s season has been marked by second half improvements, Roczen’s has been marred by a lack of performance in the second motos.

Musquin passed Roczen late in Moto 2 last week and could have extended the drama one more week if he could have caught second-place Jason Anderson. Musquin could not erase an 11-second deficit to the runner-up and now Tomac’s almost perfect season has a distinctly perfect feel to it.

Vanessa O’Brien, Kawasaki USA

Follow Dan Beaver on Twitter