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

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

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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.

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Attention NASCAR teams: IMSA drivers available for Daytona!

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NASCAR will be making its debut on the Daytona International Speedway road course next month, and there’s a big fan who’d like to join the historic weekend.

This fan actually has impressive credentials, too — a few thousand laps around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile layout that annually plays host to the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.

In 2014, the winning GTLM team in the sports car endurance classic included IMSA Porsche driver Nick Tandy, who rabidly has followed NASCAR for more than 30 years since growing up in England.

So why not try racing NASCAR? Especially because Tandy has the weekend of Aug. 14-16 free.

He’s not picky, either — offering up his services on Twitter (as well as those of Porsche teammate Earl Bamber) for an ARCA, Xfinity, trucks or Cup ride.

Tandy’s affinity for American stock-car racing runs deep.

His first trip to the World Center of Racing was as a fan attending the 50th running of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 17, 2008. During Rolex testing in January, Tandy, 35, said he hadn’t missed a Cup race on TV in 15 years.

Among his favorite NASCAR drivers: the Earnhardts, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch. When IMSA ran the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in 2014, Tandy stayed a few extra days at the Brickyard and bought Kyle Busch gear for himself and his children.

He briefly took the stage during a NASCAR weekend last October. After IMSA’s season finale at Road Atlanta, Tandy made a few demonstration laps and a burnout in his No. 911 Porsche before the Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway.

He also has some experience in stock cars, having raced Modified-type grass-roots series on England’s quarter-mile short tracks.

Couple that with a Daytona road course record that includes two consecutive podium class finishes (including last Saturday) and a sports car resume with 13 IMSA victories and an overall win in the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans … and maybe a NASCAR team should take a look.

And Tandy isn’t the only IMSA driver who likely would be available.

Corvette driver Jordan Taylor, who won the 2017 Rolex 24 overall title with Jeff Gordon as a teammate (and the inspiration for his Rodney Sandstrom persona), also tweeted his availability for the weekend on the high banks.

Sports car veteran Andy Lally, a GTD driver with multiple class wins in the Rolex 24 as well as 38 Cup starts (he was the 2011 rookie of the season in NASCAR’s premier series), also hung out his shingle.

There also is AIM Vasser Sullivan’s Jack Hawksworth (who just won at Daytona last Saturday), the Englishman who teamed with Kyle Busch at the Rolex 24 in January and made an Xfinity start at Mid-Ohio last year with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Many sports car drivers (such as Taylor) already live in Florida, and many are hunkering down in the Sunshine State with IMSA returning to action at Daytona last week and Sebring International Raceway next week. Because of COVID-19-related travel concerns and restrictions, several IMSA stars who live outside the country are riding out the pandemic within a few hours of Daytona with nothing to do.

Why not a weekend at the World Center of Racing?

Over the years, scads of “road-course ringers” (including some Formula One veterans) have tried their hands in stock cars at Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen International.

How about considering the many sports car drivers who already have reached victory lane at Daytona by making a few right-hand turns, too?