The clock is ticking for Audrey Worm and her chance to make history at drag racing’s highest level. And there’s no time to waste.
With an early onset of Parkinson’s disease chipping away at her father’s health, Worm has accelerated her dream of joining icon Shirley Muldowney as the only female owner/drivers of an NHRA Top Fuel Dragster.
“I’m sure everybody thinks I was crazy for jumping into the nitro car so quickly,” said Worm about the move into machines that exceed 300 miles an hour. “I don’t have time to wait because I want to make sure my father can enjoy this with me.”
The wheels are in motion for the twenty-seven-year-old Pennsylvania native to follow a path blazed decades ago by Muldowney in the National Hot Rod Association’s premier circuit.
Controlling her own destiny
She recently acquired backing from Strutmasters.com, a family-owned North Carolina suspension company. The support at least ensures she can get to the track for the rest of this season. She is actively searching for a much larger partner to help her contend for victories and championships in 2020.
“I am still pinching myself this is all coming together,” said Worm, who resides in the small community of Grantville off Interstate 81. “It’s tough enough just to make the leap from the Nostalgia Dragsters to Top Fuel, but now there is an extra layer in this taking on the responsibilities of being a team owner.”
Worm says instead of “shopping for stuff like a pair of jeans that fit,” she has been busy working the NHRA pits for a good used 25-foot rail dragster and a supercharged engine that produces upwards of 11,000 horsepower.
“It’s going to be a pretty big mountain to climb,” she acknowledged, “but I am so ready for this challenge. This is all I’ve ever wanted since I was eight years old. Being the team owner just allows me to control my own destiny.”
Audrey joins the big leagues
Worm stuck her toe in the waters of the big leagues in 2018 when she drove in nine Top Fuel events for Michigan-based Leverich Family Racing in an unsuccessful bid for the NHRA’s Rookie of the Year award. She qualified to race at six of the nine events and advanced past the first round once.
“My first season was a huge challenge,” said Worm. “I was pretty upset when we didn’t win the rookie award, but my Dad sat me down and did what he does best. He gave me a lot of encouragement and reminded me the best was yet to come.”
This season, Worm has qualified at every event she’s entered. She continues to top her career bests in elapsed time and top speed in the nitromethane-burning dragsters. “I feel like I am about 90 percent of the way there, but I know that last ten percent is the hardest.”
Friends and competitors
Worm said many in the sport have offered advice, even engine parts and other equipment to help her compete. The biggest friendship that has evolved, Worm noted, has been with Brittany Force – the 2017 NHRA Top Fuel champion.
“Brittany says us girls have to stick together,” said Worm about the middle child of Funny Car legend John Force. “She and I are probably the closest of any of the other lady drivers. All of them have been great to me. Brittany and I just hit it off the most because of our situations. We’ve both been around the sport since we were kids and just want to make our dads happy.”
With a laugh, Worm added: “Ironically, both of our dads are named John. They have gotten together a few times and they both get emotional and start crying when they talk about their daughters.”
Racing for a cause
Both her father and grandfather were stricken with Parkinson’s Disease. Worm said her passion for drag racing is exceeded only by her determination to bring awareness to the debilitating disease.
“To be able to race for Parkinson’s Disease awareness is huge to me,” said Worm, who works with PD patients when she is not racing. “I want to race as a tribute to Dad and all others battling this.”
Worm said she is the “true definition of a Daddy’s girl. Like any family, we didn’t always get along when I was younger. But when I got old enough, I would go out to his fabrication shop and hold the frame tubes he was welding together. I was afraid I would get burned, but I did it to spend time with my dad. It seems we’ve always had the drag racing to keep us together.”
Her father was a fabricator of 169 front-engine Nostalgia Dragsters before he was slowed by PD. He took his daughter to the nearby Maple Grove (PA) drag strip when she was eight years old.
“That day changed my life,” she said. “I was hooked and it’s all I ever wanted to do since. Dad built my Nostalgia cars and has done everything for me. I just want him to be there with me and live the dream of racing in NHRA Top Fuel with our own team. I want to do it for him. And we don’t have any time to waste.”