Phoenix: Gary Densham preview

Runner-Up in Season's First Race, Densham Among C.S.K. Favorites Auto Club Ford Mustang Tries to Overcome Test Results CHANDLER, Ariz. (March 5-7) -- When last he visited Firebird International Raceway, site of this week's 20th annual ...

Runner-Up in Season's First Race, Densham Among C.S.K. Favorites
Auto Club Ford Mustang Tries to Overcome Test Results

CHANDLER, Ariz. (March 5-7) -- When last he visited Firebird International Raceway, site of this week's 20th annual Checker/Schuck's/Kragen Nationals, Gary Densham experienced a frustration unequaled in his more than 30 years as a professional drag racer.

During that pre-season test, Densham and Crew Chief Jimmy Prock pulled the Automobile Club of Southern California Ford Mustang to the starting line nine straight times. Nine straight times Densham aborted the run before the car had traveled even 60 feet.

Eight times, the hybrid Ford shook the tires at the hit of the throttle. The ninth time, it simply lost traction and was engulfed in a cloud of tire smoke.

Given that history, one wouldn't expect Densham to be a factor this week in a race he almost won last year before losing in the final to Ron Capps.

One would be wrong.

"When you've got Jimmy Prock, you're never out of the hunt," said the 57-year-old former high school auto shop teacher. "Last week, we struggled and qualified only eighth at the (K&N Filters) Winternationals. So Jimmy got up Sunday morning and changed the entire combination -- and look what happened."

What happened was magic. After barely qualifying in the quick half of the field (4.847 seconds), Densham had the quickest time in round one (4.763), the quickest time in round two (4.757) and the second quickest time in the semifinals (4.775).

Unfortunately, the 4.775 wasn't quick enough to give the six-time tour winner his choice of lanes for the final. The result was a loss of traction that slowed him to 4.995 seconds and allowed Jerry Toliver to drive around him for the win.

Still, the car's performance, using basically the same components that were in place for the February test, in Densham's estimation is further evidence of Prock's genius as a Crew Chief.

"He's incredible," Densham said of Prock.

Indeed, Prock has become one of the most respected Crew Chiefs in the Funny Car division since joining John Force Racing in 2001.

Funny Car Crew Chief was to have been a temporary position for Prock, who actually was hired to oversee the still non-existent John Force Racing Top Fuel dragster.

Known for his ability to build huge quantities of horsepower, power that delivered 21 NHRA Top Fuel victories to drivers Joe Amato and Cory McClenathan, Prock this year has been testing a variety of "power applications," drag racing-speak for clutch combinations.

"It doesn't make any difference how much power you make if you can't get it to the ground," Prock said. "That was our problem in testing. What we have now is pretty close to what we had then. The difference is that it seems to be working. Basically, we're trying to work two or three years ahead."

Of course, if such future technology pays dividends in the present, who are Prock and Densham to complain?

"Hey, I'm just along for the ride," Densham said. "Based on what happened at Pomona, who knows how quick and fast these cars will go before the season's out. All I know is that this is one fast hot rod and that makes it a whole lot of fun just to show up for work every day."

-www.johnforceracing.com

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Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Joe Amato , Gary Densham , Jerry Toliver