Words by Bob WilberPhotos by Jeff Burk, Ron Lewis, Todd Dziadosz and DRO file photos
It was a Thursday, January 30, 1997. Del Worsham was in the pit area at Pomona Raceway, standing next to his newly painted old car, the same '96 Oldsmobile he had competed with the year before, with sponsor names such as Texas Stagecoach, Auburn Foundry, and Wible Realty on the hood and sides. For the '97 season, however, the car had been repainted mostly white, with a stylized star profiled in a light shade of blue, while the names Checker Auto Parts, Schuck's Auto Supply, and Kragen Auto Parts had been placed in the primary sponsor positions. Worsham's Funny Car was no threat to win the "Best Appearing" award, but it was a truly beautiful sight in his eyes, because it had a full sponsorship on it for the first time in his career, which was then entering its seventh season.
Although Worsham and his father, Chuck, made the switch to a new Dodge body before the next race, and the original flat-blue color was adjusted to a deeper royal, the blue and white design would remain for the rest of that first year. Meanwhile, the younger Worsham's rapid-fire vocal delivery of "Checker, Schuck's, Kragen" would soon become as well known as any sponsor mention in the sport, while the line "I just want to thank my dad" became a consistent theme in his top-end interviews, after every race win.From that first day in Pomona, with his team wearing newly embroidered blue polo shirts as crew uniforms, Worsham learned the sponsorship ropes as quickly as he could and never looked back. Until now.
(Jeff Burk photo)