Las Vegas: Gary Densham preview

National record-holder goes for second straight victory. LAS VEGAS, Nevada (March 28-30) -- There's a very good reason why Gary Densham is the POWERade points leader for just the second time in his 31-year-career. Quite simply, the Team ...

National record-holder goes for second straight victory.

LAS VEGAS, Nevada (March 28-30) -- There's a very good reason why Gary Densham is the POWERade points leader for just the second time in his 31-year-career.

Quite simply, the Team Castrol/Automobile Club of Southern California Ford Mustang he's driving for John Force Racing is one bad hot rod.

Although it is listed on the depth chart as the No. 3 Ford in the Force Racing stable, Densham's Mustang not only is the fastest Funny Car ever to negotiate the quarter mile (326.87 miles per hour), it also knows its way to the winners' circle at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, site of this week's fourth renewal of the SummitRacing.com Nationals.

Densham is the event's defending Funny Car champion and, based on his performance in the season's first three races, there's no reason to believe he won't revisit the winners' circle on Sunday.

After all, the former high school auto shop teacher has posted the season's quickest average Funny Car time (4.848 seconds for nine "race day" runs) and could as easily be 12-0 for the season instead of "just" 7-2.

A finalist in the two most recent events in the NHRA POWERade Series (the Mac Tools Gatornationals at Gainesville, Fla.), the barrel-chested veteran's two losses have come by a combined total of .029 of a second -- on a .003 of a second foul start at the season-opening K&N Filters Winternationals (which wasted a 4.850 second run) and on a 4.810 second upset loss to Ron Capps in the finals of the CSK Nationals at Phoenix, Ariz., in which Capps was credited with a reaction time of .003 of a second that offset a big performance deficit.

Densham credits Crew Chief Jimmy Prock for the team's 2003 success.

"Jimmy's been on his game," Densham said. "Getting to the winners' circle at Gainesville was the best medicine for what happened the first two races. We've had a car good enough to win every week and that makes it fun.

"I always said a bad day racing was better than a good day doing almost anything else. A good day racing? Well, there's nothing better."

Densham's "game day" performance this year has been even better than that of teammate Tony Pedregon, the pre-season favorite to win the POWERade championship and the No. 1 qualifier at two of the first three races.

As a result, the journeyman finds himself in the same position he occupied for four races a year ago when he was the only driver other than Force himself to lead the POWERade points.

Can he stay ahead?

"It's way too early to even think about," Densham said. "There are a lot of really good race cars out there and two of 'em are parked right next to me in the pits. John's struggled a little, but don't think he won't be racing for the championship. We're just going to try to keep going and avoid the problems that got us last year."

Densham last led the points in June, 2002, but ultimately fell back to fourth place behind Force, Pedregon and Del Worsham. Even though that was a career best finish, the 56-year-old now has developed a taste for No. 1, thank you.

-www.johnforceracing.com

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , Del Worsham , Ron Capps , John Force , Gary Densham