Brainerd: Gary Densham preview

Auto Club Ford Driver Tries to Climb Back in Title Picture BRAINERD, Minn. (Aug. 13-15) -- Coming off a brutal Western Swing in which he won just two rounds of racing in three events, Gary Densham tries to put his POWERade title bid back on...

Auto Club Ford Driver Tries to Climb Back in Title Picture

BRAINERD, Minn. (Aug. 13-15) -- Coming off a brutal Western Swing in which he won just two rounds of racing in three events, Gary Densham tries to put his POWERade title bid back on track this week when he defends his Funny Car title in the 23rd annual Lucas Oil Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway.

Densham, the 57-year-old former high school auto shop teacher, is 272 points off teammate John Force's lead as the race for the $400,000 championship moves into the stretch.

That's the equivalent of 14 rounds of racing. It's a formidable deficit, but, in Densham's estimation, not necessarily an insurmountable one.

"We do seem to be running out of races real fast," said the driver of the Automobile Club of Southern California Ford Mustang. "John's got a good lead and a fast hot rod, but I don't think it's over yet.

"Somebody could get hot and turn the whole thing around. It might be us."

Indeed, Densham is moving into a series of events in which he has done extremely well the last three years. The defending Lucas Nationals champion, he has won at four of the eight tracks on which the concluding races will be run BIR, Memphis Motorsports Park, the Texas Motorplex and The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Winner of more racing rounds at BIR than at any other track on the circuit (19), Densham has been a finalist the last two seasons.

He figures a third straight final round appearance -- and a repeat victory -- would be just what he needs to jumpstart his title bid.

"John has momentum right now and we need to get some," Densham said. "It's a long shot, but when you've got Jimmy Prock working his magic on the motor, anything's possible."

Although he had only a pair of a second round appearances to show for his effort in the Western Swing (Denver, Seattle and Sonoma), Densham had a race car capable of much more.

In fact, two weeks ago he drove the Auto Club Ford to the quickest time of the weekend and the quickest time on the new 85 per cent nitromethane fuel mix (4.821 seconds) in the first round of the Fram/Autolite Nationals at Infineon Raceway.

Unfortunately, his blue-and-white Ford lost traction in a round two match-up with Force's Castrol GTX® Start Up™ Mustang, which had been the quickest qualifier at 4.823 seconds.

"John still has the best car when the track's hot," Densham said, "but it's not supposed to be hot this weekend and that'll level the playing field for everybody."

One of Force's best friends since the two were thrown together on an Australian Funny Car in 1974, Densham raced against the 12-time champion for most of his career. It wasn't until 2001 that he adopted an "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" attitude and signed on for duty in the third of the team's Mustangs.

Since coming on board, the barrel-chested veteran has won seven tour events, most recently prevailing in the K&N SuperNationals at Englishtown, N.J., on June 20.

- www.johnforceracing.com

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Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Gary Densham