Baytown: Gary Densham preview

Densham is already in Houston, ready to work first, race second HOUSTON -- Don't mind Gary Densham if he seems ready for the relaxing atmosphere of a race track when Friday rolls around. The Funny Car driver is in the Houston area days before...

Densham is already in Houston, ready to work first, race second

HOUSTON -- Don't mind Gary Densham if he seems ready for the relaxing atmosphere of a race track when Friday rolls around. The Funny Car driver is in the Houston area days before most of the NHRA teams.

Is he testing in hopes of getting a jump on the competition for this weekend's O'Reilly NHRA Spring Nationals at Houston Raceway Park? No.

Is he walking the track like a veteran crew chief in hopes of seeing something that will help him earn his third consecutive No. 1 qualifying award at HRP? No.

Is he setting up the Racebricks Chevy Monte Carlo early in hopes of defending both ends of his track record? No.

He's going to spend time in the classroom. Lots and lots of time.

Densham arrived early to visit Houston area classrooms -- his second job. Densham visits more than 60 high schools in the Southern California region when he's not racing. This week he's making school visits on the road too. After spending more than 30 years as a high school teacher, the one-day stops are a welcome reminder of his old job.

"The Auto Club asked me to bring the car and visit some kids in Houston and I jumped at the chance," Densham said. "I was always lucky when I was teaching full time that I had direct contact with the kids in the shop classes. Unlike the history and English teachers, we got to work with the kids face to face. I'm lucky because I still get to do that even though I'm not in the classroom everyday."

Densham will bring the Racebricks Monte Carlo to area schools and talk about the jobs that surround racing, teamwork and anything he can think of that will get the kids excited about school.

"Kids can lose interest in school so quickly," Densham said. "I just try to go in and tell them about racing, talk about all the jobs that make the racing industry possible and I talk about the classes and information they need to get those jobs. I want them to see the car, ask questions and just get excited about something. It's always fun because the kids ask good questions and they see racing and the industrial arts classes from a different perspective."

When Densham is done with his school tour, it will be time to get in the car and race down the quarter-mile track. Densham holds both ends of the Houston Raceway Park track record. He blazed a 4.755-second pass at 325.69 mph in April 2003 and is looking forward to going after another accolade there.

"I may have the track record and we earned the top qualifying spot two years in a row, but I haven't won there yet," Densham said. "If the weather stays as warm as it is, this is going to be a tricky race. This team is getting its act together and we're doing well. No matter what, we're going to make sure it's a fun weekend."

Qualifying will be held Friday and Saturday before the eliminations run on Sunday. All the action can be seen on ESPN2 throughout the weekend. Qualifying will air at 7 p.m. (ET) on April 9 before final eliminations can be seen at 7 p.m. (ET) on April 10.

-gs-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Gary Densham