Joliet II: Gary Densham preview

Densham battling to protect team's 1-2-3 POWERade standing. JOLIET, Ill. While his Castrol teammates, John Force and Tony Pedregon, are racing for the $400,000 bonus set aside for the 2002 NHRA POWERade Funny Car Champion, former points leader...

Densham battling to protect team's 1-2-3 POWERade standing.

JOLIET, Ill. While his Castrol teammates, John Force and Tony Pedregon, are racing for the $400,000 bonus set aside for the 2002 NHRA POWERade Funny Car Champion, former points leader Gary Densham is fighting a holding action right behind them.

Densham, who led the driver standings as late as June 29, suddenly finds himself not only off the championship pace (219 points behind Force) but also in jeopardy of losing third place to fast-closing Del Worsham.

While he hasn't been mathematically eliminated from championship consideration, the former high school auto shop teacher is realistic enough to know that he faces extremely long odds at the wheel of a Team Castrol/Automobile Club of Southern California Mustang which has been erratic the last two months.

The more realistic goal is a Top 3 finish which, for a driver who until last year had never won a tour event and never finished higher than ninth in points, would be remarkable.

There's just one nagging problem. Worsham.

The 32-year-old trails Densham by just 29 points as the tour moves this week (Sept. 27-29) to a Route 66 Raceway track on which Worsham has done extremely well (14-4 with two wins) and Densham has not (2-5 with one DNQ).

At stake not only is Densham's best career finish, but also an unprecedented 1-2-3 finish for the Team Castrol Fords which, between them, have won 13 of the 19 races contested thus far this season..

"It's hard to believe that our three Mustangs are still on top," Densham said. "Not that we don't have three good cars, but the quality of the competition in Funny Car is just unbelievable. If I was a betting man, I would have a hard time putting money on us finishing 1-2-3, but that's still a possibility and I know it's one of John's dreams."

To help his long-time friend fulfill that dream, Densham knows that he and Crew Chief Jimmy Prock need to take their performance and that of their national record-holding Ford (326.87 miles per hour) up a notch or two.

In the season's first 10 races, the veteran was 19-8 with two wins, two No. 1 starts and seven top speed awards. In the last nine races, he's gone 9-9, qualified no better than fourth and earned no performance bonus awards.

"Del really is keeping the pressure on us," Densham admitted. "I can't help but see him every time I look back. Hopefully, we can solve some of the nagging little things that have been plaguing us like blowing fuel lines off and spitting out spark plugs.

"And then Force keeps reminding me that I've run over my allotment of (barrier) cones."

Winless in his first 245 races, Densham has been reborn with Team Castrol, for whom he now has won four times.

In fact, the veteran from Bellflower, Calif., has gone to the finals as often the last 12 months (six) as he had in his previous 18 years on the NHRA tour.

That's the kind of success story that is hard to ignore which is why Densham and Prock were named 2001-2002 drag racing "Persons of the Year" by the editors of Car Craft Magazine after also being recognized for the first time as finalists for on the Car Craft All-Star Team.

Nevertheless, Densham says that's "old history" now.

"We need to put together a strong finish," Densham said. "Last year, we won two of the last six events of the year. It'd be nice to do that again. If it doesn't win us the championship, then at least it'll give us some momentum going into next season."

-www.johnforceracing.com-

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Del Worsham , John Force , Gary Densham