The top five quickest times in the history of the National Hot Rod Association were set in the Funny Car classification Saturday afternoon.
Del Worsham ripped off two of them, including his national record 3.832-second time in the final qualifying run of the day at the 29th NHRA Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways in Kent.
He debuted his Bounty Hunter Chassis No. 2 two weeks ago in Denver, and is the top qualifier in the category for the second week in a row.
“That thing has just been on fire,” Worsham said. “It ran great numbers at Denver even though it wasn’t No. 1. Came to Sonoma, qualified No. 1. Came here and ran a record time.”
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Worsham was one of four drivers to best the previous national record set by Matt Hagan (3.862 ET) in May in Topeka, Kansas.
Courtney Force was the first to break Hagan’s mark with a 3.855 ET. Worsham erased that three minutes later at 3.841 ET.
Ron Capps (3.843 ET) and Jack Beckman (3.861 ET) also eclipsed Hagan’s record.
“Twelve months ago it would have never even entered my mind,” Worsham said. “Earlier this season, if you’d put a few of our runs together, you’d have thought we could run a 3.85. We thought a 3.85 was on the horizon, but a 3.83? I didn’t think it was going to happen this fast.”
Beckman set the course’s top speed record at 332.26 mph and clinched his spot in the Countdown to the Championship — the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series’ six-race playoff that begins in September.
Capps, Force, Beckman and Worsham all occupy a top-four spot in the points leaderboard with two races (Brainerd, Minnesota, and Indianapolis) to go.
If weather patterns hold — Saturday’s mostly cloudy conditions and cool track were near-perfect — times could continue to drop.
The top eight qualifiers in the 16-car Funny Car field are under the 3.9-second mark. That list includes John Force, who is in position to sweep the NHRA’s Western Swing for the second time in history. He was the first and only driver to do it in 1994.
Tony Schumacher knocked off Steve Torrence atop the Top Fuel category with a course record in the final qualifying round. Amid a handful of slower runs, the Texan fired off a 3.686 ET to swipe the No. 1 qualifying spot and clinch a playoff berth.
“That run there just took a load off me because it shows that, yes, no matter what, this car will run out and go in the .60s,” Schumacher said.
He’s the first driver to post a time below 3.7 in the track’s history.
“I’d like to call it peaking,” he said. “I think we’re running a lot better than we were at the beginning. We had some serious problems we had to work through and figure out, and once we did, it’s small moves that bring you to that .68 run.”
Vincent Nobile set a track record in the Pro Stock category at 6.527 ET, but 14 of the 15 drivers in the finals are within one-tenth of a second of his time.
“The car’s on a rail. It’s really consistent, it’s really fast,” Nobile said. “If it stays that way, it’s up to me now. A little bit of pressure. Everybody wants to be No. 1, but at the same time, now it’s up to the driver.”
Milton’s Aaron Strong and Kapowsin’s Ron Smith qualified for Sunday’s finals. Strong is the No. 14 qualifier in Pro Stock (6.614 ET) and will meet Greg Anderson (No. 3, 6.544 ET) in the first elimination round. Smith held on to the final Top Fuel qualifying spot (4.034 ET) and meets Schumacher. … Three hours of live finals coverage will be televised on Fox beginning at 4 p.m. Sunday.