An Interview With Del Worsham

By David G. Firestone

There are a lot of sports families. Names like Manning, Williams, Ripkin, Bonds, Mayweather, Dimaggio, Griffey, Howe, Hull, and Jordan are synonymous with their sports. In auto racing, there are a lot of well-known families. These include Earnhardt, Andretti, Petty, Rosberg, Unser, Pedregon, and Force. One racing that family that has flown under the radar for a while in racing is the Worsham family.

The most well-known of the Worsham family is Del Worsham. With 33 National Event wins, 25 in Funny Car, and 8 in Top Fuel, and two Mello Yello Drag Racing Series championships, one in Top Fuel and one in Funny Car, Del has carved himself out a great career. For much of his career, he raced for his father Chuck Worsham’s team. Chuck Worsham runs the team, builds and tunes the car, and builds and repairs equipment for other teams.

Del raced for his family team from 1990 to 2008. In 2009, Worsham joined Al-Anabi racing as a Top Fuel driver. In 2011, he won his first championship in Top Fuel. He then retired, and joined Kalitta Motorsports for 2012 as a crew chief to Alexis DeJoria. In 2013, driver Jeff Arend left the team, and Worsham was announced as the replacement driver. By 2015, Del had settled into his role as driver, and thanks to a great Countdown, won his second Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Championship. At the end of the 2016 season, Worsham left Kalitta Motorsports, and rejoined his family team.

I interviewed Del about his racing uniform last week, and he was great to work with. I’d like to thank Del for taking time out of his schedule for this interview. Without further ado, my interview with Del Worsham:

Dave-What is your uniform setup for a race weekend, that is, how do you rotate suits, helmets, shoes, gloves, etc over a race weekend?

Del-I generally don’t replace equipment during a weekend. I try to wear the same equipment all weekend, bearing that it doesn’t have holes or rips or tears. I visually inspect it as the weekend goes on, and at the end of the weekend if there’s something that’s major, I’ll go ahead and change it out

Dave-Some drivers black out parts of their helmet visor to cut down on distraction, which Jack Beckman referred to as “the Clydesdale effect.” I have noticed that you prefer to have your whole visor clear, have you tried the Clydesdale effect?

Del-I have, I have tried different ways. I’ve been driving 27 years, and I’ve gone with the Clydesdale Effect, I’ve gone with smoke lenses, I’ve gone with amber lenses, pretty much everything that’s out there, and my preference, the way I like to drive, and what I like to see, and for what I’d like to see, visual effect, I’m best, personally as a driver, being able to see what’s going on around me.

Dave-Could you explain, from a driver’s perspective, how you want your suit to fit?

Del-Well, I’d like my suit to fit a little loose. I don’t like it being tugged on or pulling on me in any way. I don’t always order a suit for visual effect, I order it mostly for comfort, and making sure that it’s not too bunched up in areas and causes grief in areas I don’t want. At the same time, you don’t want it baggy and sloppy. I think it should fit nice, and be comfortable during the actual event, racing.

Dave-When you switched from Kalitta Motorsports to Worsham Racing, you stayed with Stand 21 driver suits. What prompted this decision?

Del-Well I started with Stand 21 when I was with Al-Anabi, back in 2011 I believe,[Editor’s note, he actually started with Al-Anabi in 2009] and I started wearing those suits back then, and I noticed right away they were extremely comfortable suits, and they are always working to try to be the leading edge of technology. So I work with the owner, Yves Morizot, I’ve worked with the engineers, Gerald [Bonnet], and I work with Kevin [McConnell] in the United States quite a bit, just to try and build products that are specifically to what we’re doing here, and they’ve been a great company to work with.

Dave-You have had success in both Top Fuel and Funny Car, are there any differences in the uniform setups?

Del-Not today, there were back when I started racing. You could wear a suit that wasn’t rated quite as high in Top Fuel as you had to wear in Funny Car, but in today’s racing, they both require the same suit with the same rating [SFI 20], and to be totally honest with you, I always wore the highest rated suit, racing Top Fuel or Funny Car either way, and that’s what I prefer, I couldn’t imagine not wearing the most protective thing you could, in one of these vehicles, whether Top Fuel or Funny car.

Dave-Do you see yourself racing in Top Fuel again?

Del-No, but you know what, I never say never, because I didn’t even know if I was going to race after 2011, and I was back in the car in 2013. So I never say never, but no I’m pretty content here in Funny Car, I like the guys I’m racing with, love the competition, I like having my own car, and this is where I feel the most comfortable.

Dave-Do you have any uniform superstitions?

Del-Not necessarily superstitions, but I do always do things in the same order, because you don’t want to forget something. Gloves go on in the same order. Boots go on in the same order. I put on the same sleeve, the HANS goes on, everything goes on in the same order. That way, by doing everything in the same order, there’s never a chance of forgetting anything.

Dave-Do you keep any memorabilia from your career?

Del-I do. Not a lot, I keep my championship helmets, I rarely get rid of helmets. I’ve gotten rid of a few over the years, to a couple of people. Pretty much if I have a helmet I like, I wear it as long as I can because changing helmets really affects my vision, the way I can see. I don’t like changing helmets if I don’t have to. So I wear helmets for quite a while. I definitely keep my championship helmets and keep my championship helmets on a pedestal.

Dave-My last question for you is: What is the strangest thing you have every autographed, or been asked to autograph?

Del-Oh brother! I’ve signed plenty of underwear my life. I’ve signed plenty of skin in my life, and I always thing that’s a little strange. One time I signed a guy’s arm, and when I saw him the next time, he had had it tattooed on his arm. So that’s about the strangest thing I’ve ever signed.

Del Worsham has raced for 27 years and has had a lot of success. He has connected with the fans, and has earned the respect of his peers. At a point where many drivers are considering placing their helmets on the mantle, and hanging up their firesuits, Del is still going strong. There is no doubt he will be around for years to come.

Next week, I start my annual summer sabbatical. For the month of July, I will have Monday videos, Throwback Thursdays, and Friday features, but I won’t update the Tracker or Grades, nor will I do My Thoughts On. Next Friday, I’m going to do a video featuring my non-racing autographs.

Author: dgf2099

I'm just a normal guy who collects race-worn driver suits, helmets, sheet metal, and other race-worn items. I will use this blog to help collectors, and race fans alike understand the various aspects of driver suits and helmets, and commentate on paint schemes.

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