Compiled by SEMA Editors
WORSHAM LOOKS TO REPEAT HOT COUNTDOWN START: Del Worsham got red-hot at the perfect time a season ago, winning four races in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship to claim his first Funny Car world title. This year, Worsham is ahead of that remarkable pace and has a head start on what appears to be another late-season surge in 2016. He has advanced to the past three final rounds heading into this weekend’s Countdown to the Championship opener—the ninth-annual NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway. Returning to the site where he started his string in the playoffs, Worsham is hoping to recreate similar magic this year in his 10,000hp DHL Toyota Camry. Worsham, who recently won in Brainerd and enters the Countdown to the Championship in second place, believes his team is in a better spot than it was a year ago, but he also knows that doesn’t guarantee anything in a star-studded Funny Car class.
“Last season’s start gave my DHL Toyota team the confidence that we could win,” said Worsham, who became just the third driver in NHRA history to win world titles in both Top Fuel and Funny Car. “It gave us the points lead leaving Charlotte and that was what we were after. I definitely feel like we are in a better position than we were last year. However, lots of teams are fast and we will not be able to surprise anyone this year.”
RISING STAR PRITCHETT ONTO THE NEXT GOAL: Through numerous trials and tribulations, Leah Pritchett persevered and accomplished her goal of reaching the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship for the first time in her career, but now that the NHRA’s six-race playoffs are here, the rising Top Fuel star has no plans of slowing down. Pritchett advanced to the Countdown to the Championship by a single point and will start from the 10th position against a loaded Top Fuel field, but her entire 2016 season has been about overcoming odds. To stay in the championship mix, Pritchett knows a good start will be necessary, and that includes a strong performance in her 10,000-hp FireAde dragster at the Countdown to the Championship opener—this weekend’s ninth annual NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway.
“I definitely have had to reset my brain, but it’s all for the better,” said Pritchett, who won her first career Top Fuel race earlier this season in Phoenix. “Our new goals are to challenge for a championship to the best of our ability. It is realistic to potentially be in the hunt, and I know the race car we have is a contender.”
COUGHLIN CAN PUT FRUSTRATING REGULAR SEASON BEHIND HIM AT NHRA CAROLINA NATIONALS: The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series regular season did not go as planned for Pro Stock standout Jeg Coughlin Jr. But the five-time world champion won’t have to wait long to try to make amends, and with the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship starting, the veteran also knows there’s a chance to finish 2016 with a flourish. To this point it has been a struggle for Coughlin and his Magneti Marelli/Elite/JEGS.com Dodge Dart GT, as he slipped into the 10th and final spot in the Countdown to the Championship. But there is still time for a turnaround starting at this weekend’s Countdown to the Championship opener—the ninth-annual NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway.
“We are fired up to have a fresh start,” Coughlin said. “We have a chance and that’s put a pep in everyone’s step. This team’s worked so hard, and we’ve really made some good headway lately, so there is reason to be optimistic."
He Said, She Said
“I’m confident in my team. The thing about it for me is that I have no regrets each and every race that I go to race at. I put the work in every week. I work hard. My team works hard. Brian and Mark are always studying the data, breaking down different formulas, they're making different graphs to be better each and every week. When I go into the Countdown race, I'm going in with the team. The only thing we can do is lose the championship because we have all the necessary key pieces and ingredients to win this championship, like we did last year. When we go in, we have to go in with our same mindset and focus. I feel confident. I feel confident we can compete at the level that it takes to be there at the last race to have a chance to win this championship. I'm very confident in that."
—Top Fuel driver Antron Brown on entering the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship as the No. 1 seed and his chances to secure his third championship. Brown has four wins, four runner-up finishes and has lost only once in the first round this season.
Inside the Numbers
5: Number of championships Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Andrew Hines has in his career. Hines has five wins this season and 47 in his career. He is the winningest Pro Stock Motorcycle racer in the history of the category, having surpassed the late Dave Schultz who has 45 victories. Hines is the No. 1 seed starting the Countdown to the Championship, and if he were to win the season crown, he would tie Schultz with six season crowns.
“I was 19 years old when I started. I was happy to go out there and race every weekend, have fun, ride a motorcycle that goes 200 miles an hour in under seven seconds,” said Hines. “I would look at some of the stats those guys had and think, wow, that’s a lot of wins. I’m going to be well retired or not in any shape to be racing by then. I’ve had an awesome team the entire time that’s given me the capability to go out there and perform and have a flawless motorcycle every time. To have a team that’s that resilient, to always give their best effort, make sure everything is flawless, that’s how you get to achievements like this. You got to have a great team behind you.”
Did You Know
FERRÉ WILL MAKE TOP FUEL DEBUT IN CHARLOTTE: Cameron Ferré, who has enjoyed success in both NHRA Sportsman and Jr. Drag Racing, will make his Top Fuel debut at the NHRA Carolina Nationals at the wheel of the Paton family dragster. Ferré, a former NHRA Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League national champion who most recently has been piloting Larry Miersch’s A/Fuel Dragster, earned his Top Fuel license last October in Las Vegas in the Paton entry.
“I cannot thank the Patons enough,” said Ferré. “The family’s history in the sport is rich, and I am just happy to be a part of their team. I have been dreaming of this opportunity since I was nine years old, and it has been one heck of a journey to get to this moment. Words cannot describe how excited I am to kick off my professional career." The Ontario, Canada-based Paton team is currently campaigning in its 50th year of racing.