GAINESVILLE — On a weekend when a rookie who lost in the first round of Pro Stock garnered much of the attention, Del Worsham joined a select group Sunday at the NHRA Gatornationals.
Worsham defeated seven-time Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher in the final round at Gainesville Raceway to become the 15th driver to win Top Fuel and Funny Car events.
The other winners at the second of 22 NHRA races this season were Mike Neff (Funny Car), Jason Line (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle).
NASCAR star Kurt Busch lost in the first round of Pro Stock eliminations in his NHRA pro debut. As the No. 12 seed, Busch had his best run of the weekend — and better than any of his 50 or so runs in testing — at 6.541 seconds but lost to Erica Enders.
"This was a weekend that I'll never forget," said Busch, racing here on a Sprint Cup off week.
Enders edged Busch by half a car length on the quarter-mile strip, covering the distance in 6.538 seconds.
Worsham was four-thousandths slower (0.044 to 0.040) on the staging tree and eight-thousands quicker (3.858 to 3.866) on the track for a winning margin of 0.004.
It was Worsham's first win in Top Fuel after compiling 25 victories in Funny Car over the past 15 years.
Busch, after a brief celebration with his team for having such a good run, returned to the starting line and watched the rest of the competition. He cheered for Enders, the only woman in the 16-driver field, who lost in the second round. Busch spent time walking around the paddock area, shaking hands with fans and posing for pictures.
"It's a unique feeling," Busch said. "The atmosphere here is like a carnival atmosphere. I'm ready to grab a corndog and a cold beer and go watch … finish the day off."
Busch made his NHRA debut last year in Gainesville. He entered his 1970 Dodge Challenger in the Sportsman division, but got only two passes over four days because of heavy rain. Despite his lack of experience, Busch decided to turn pro. He got backing from Dodge and his NASCAR sponsors, then rented a car from Pro Stock veteran Allen Johnson.
Neff (4.092 seconds, 310.48 mph) won when Cruz Pedregon spun the tires on his run in the final. Line (6.554, 211.96) defeated Summit Racing teammate Greg Anderson to win his second straight to open the season. Krawiec took his victory when Karen Stoffer red-lighted.