DENVER (July 14) -- If past performances and local knowledge won races on the National Hot Rod Association circuit, then Funny Car pilot Gary Densham should be given the trophy of the 21st Annual Mopar Mile-High Nationals Thursday afternoon when...
DENVER (July 14) -- If past performances and local knowledge won races on the National Hot Rod Association circuit, then Funny Car pilot Gary Densham should be given the trophy of the 21st Annual Mopar Mile-High Nationals Thursday afternoon when the event begins.
Densham, the former high school teacher and current driver of the NEC/Auto Club of Southern Calif. Funny Car, has studied every inch of Bandimere Speedway over the years. He has competed -- and won - so many divisional events and match races over the years on Thunder Mountain that he's lost count of the number of trophies he's collected here.
"When I was coming up through the ranks, Bandimere Speedway was about as far east as I could afford to go," Densham said. "But I came here every chance I could. I've always loved this place. It would take me a long time to figure out how many match races I've run down this track. I know there's been a lot of them.
"For a long time I thought my knowledge of Bandimere gave me a slight advantage against the other professional drivers. But nowadays, most of the really big race teams have enough computer data to stay as competitive as they are everywhere else no matter where we're racing. Still, if all those years of racing here give us some sort of an edge, I'll take it."
A resident of Bellflower, Calif., Densham won the track's last high-profile match race in 1988, the year the track elected to skip the NHRA's regularly scheduled national event to modernize the entire complex to its current world-class level. "The track owners knew the fans still wanted to see some racing while they were remodeling so they staged a match race and we were fortunate enough to win," Densham said.
After the one-year NHRA hiatus, Densham returned with the circuit in 1989 and joined his fellow drivers in being awe-struck by the many improvements. "I've been around racing for a long time," Densham said. "You always hear track owners saying they're going to make a bunch of improvements, and you come back a year later and there's just a new snack bar. At this track, they changed everything. This place is gorgeous. I saw what they did from one year to the next and I told John (Bandimere, Jr., track owner) 'I can't believe you did all this with $4 million.' He really lived up to his word and it's great for our sport."
Densham has qualified for eight races this season and has logged four elimination round wins. He is currently in 14th place in the Winston points standings, 63 points out of the top 10 (one elimination round win 20 points.)