Automobile Club inks multi-year pact to extend Force Racing sponsorship.
Densham returns as Driver of World's Fastest Mustang in 2004.

YORBA LINDA, Calif. -- John Force confirmed Tuesday that he has signed a long-term agreement with the Automobile Club of Southern California that will put veteran Gary Densham back in the cockpit of one of the John Force Racing Ford Mustangs for a fourth season.

Although Densham will be re-united with Crew Chief Jimmy Prock for one more year, the terms of the contract extend Auto Club's association with JFR through the 2007 NHRA POWERade season.

"I'm glad to have Gary back," Force said. "We're looking forward to another great year for the Auto Club team and all three of my cars."

Densham, who was to have left JFR at the end of the 2003 season to field a car of his own, returns in large part to provide continuity in the wake of Tony Pedregon's unexpected departure from the team after eight seasons at the wheel of the Castrol SYNTEC Ford.

Although he'll drive the entire 23-race series for JFR and the Auto Club, Densham acknowledged that throughout the year he actively will be seeking the sponsorship necessary to field his own car in 2005.

"John and I have been friends for nearly 30 years," Densham said, "but he has long term goals for his team and I have some of my own.

"I believe I have a few good years left as a driver, but then I would like to move on to become car owner and Crew Chief for my son Steven. I'd like to give him a chance to drive."

The younger Densham, 21, is studying mechanical engineering at California Polytechnic University (Cal-Poly) in Pomona, Calif. A former NHRA Jr. Dragster champion, he is licensed in Top Alcohol Funny Car but has not yet raced competitively.

"Unfortunately, the cost of running a nitro Funny Car has become so great that a young person has little or no chance of getting involved unless he is born into wealth or works his way up the ladder with an existing team," Densham said. "That's how Steven is going to have to do it and I hope to have that team in place by next season.

"John and I share two main goals," Densham continued. "One is winning another championship for Auto Club, Ford and Castrol and the other is providing opportunities for second generation racers like Steven, John's daughter Ashley, and others.

"Besides, staying with John for one more year means that I can continue to do my school program with Auto Club (60 appearances each season at high schools primarily in Southern California) and show these kids that there are a lot of opportunities out there for them in the technical field."

A former auto shop teacher at Gahr High School (Cerritos, Calif.), the 57-year-old Densham won two races each of the last three years in the Auto Club Mustang. Before joining JFR in 2001, he had for 29 years successfully campaigned his own Funny Cars.

Last year he posted the fastest speed ever attained by a Ford race car when he was clocked at 327.27 miles per hour at the wheel of the blue-and-white Mustang prepared by Crew Chief Jimmy Prock.

"I was going to form my own team in 2004," Densham acknowledged, "but when Tony left, John asked me to consider staying for one more year to help bring home another championship for Castrol and the Auto Club.

"Maybe I'll get another opportunity to set the national record we just missed last year (with quarter mile times of 4.723 and 4.728 seconds)," he said. "Maybe we'll even be able to get the speed record back (from Gary Scelzi). With Jimmy Prock tuning the car, anything's possible."

The Auto Club Mustang again will be part of a three-car team that will include Fords driven by Force, the 12-time NHRA Funny Car Champion, and a driver to be named. The Auto Club logo also will be visibly more prominent on other Fords, thus reflecting the company's long-term commitment to the team that has won 11 straight NHRA championships and 142 tour events.

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