Auto Club Driver Seeks Second Win in Three Years ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. (June 18-20) -- With the possible exception of his boss and teammate, 12-time NHRA Funny Car Champion John Force, Gary Densham has been down more quarter mile racetracks...
Auto Club Driver Seeks Second Win in Three Years
ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. (June 18-20) -- With the possible exception of his boss and teammate, 12-time NHRA Funny Car Champion John Force, Gary Densham has been down more quarter mile racetracks than any other driver participating in this week's 35th annual K&N Filters SuperNationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park.
Lessons learned in more than 30 years of racing on some of the best and worst tracks in the United States (and Australia) are a source of growing support for the former high school auto shop teacher in his bid to put the Automobile Club of Southern California Ford Mustang in the winners' circle for the second time in three years at Raceway Park.
Densham has emerged as one of the principal threats to current points leader and defending SuperNationals champion Whit Bazemore, primarily because of what is not known about the track surface in the wake of a schedule change that moved the Northeast's biggest drag race from May to June.
It's just four weeks, but Densham thinks it will make an tremendous difference in performance and not necessarily for the good.
"A lot of these drivers haven't raced at Englishtown when it's hot," Densham said. "It's a whole lot different from running in cool conditions like we have the past several years. Let's just say you're probably not going to see any (national) records."
Indeed, for 22 years the track was home to the NHRA Summernationals, an event annually contested in July.
The Northeast's biggest drag race was moved to a mid-May date in 1993. Now it's come full circle just in time for Densham to show off the "hot weather tune-up" crew chief Jimmy Prock has applied to the Automobile Club of Southern California Ford Mustang.
"Last year, we probably wouldn't have been too excited about racing (in New Jersey) in June," Densham said. "We had a good hot rod when it was cool, but we really didn't have a handle on the heat. Now I think we do. Jimmy's been working really hard on a new combination."
In fact, that work already has paid off. After enduring a series of tire-smoking losses early in the season, the result of lost traction on hot racetracks, Densham unloaded a 4.780 in a first round upset of Bazemore's teammate, Gary Scelzi, in the first round of last month's O'Reilly Summer Nationals at Topeka, Kan.
As a result, Densham remains solidly in the points race even though he has not yet won a race during the 2004 POWERade campaign.
"The last few years, we've won races and we've led the points," said the six-time NHRA tour winner and 2001 Car Craft Magazine Person of the Year (along with Prock). "What hurt us was not going rounds in the summer races.
"John won all those championships not just because he had a fast hot rod. He won a lot of rounds and a lot of races when his car wasn't the fastest. The wins are going to come, especially when you've got Jimmy Prock tuning on your car, but to win the championship you've got to win some ugly rounds and some ugly races."