Densham back at home track
looking for elusive first win.
Test results don't provide answers for Auto Club Ford.
POMONA, Calif. (Feb. 18-22) -- Driver Gary Densham and Crew Chief Jimmy Prock rolled the Automobile Club of Southern California Ford Mustang to the starting line for every pre-season test session leading up to this week's 44th annual K&N Filters Winternationals at the Los Angeles County Fairplex.
They tested at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, at Firebird Raceway in Chandler, Ariz., and at Southwestern International Raceway in Tucson.
And although they produced some impressive numbers (4.787 at 325.30 miles per hour at LVMS; 4.842 at Firebird; and 4.806 at SIR), their pre-season effort isnly likely to make them that much better this week.
"I think, for the most part, these test sessions create more confusion than anything else," Prock said. "We tried a lot of different stuff, way more than we normally would, but we wound up with more questions than answers."
As a result, the team will start the new season with basically the same combination with which they ended the old one.
Not that that's all bad. After all, Densham was one of only six Funny Car drivers to earn multiple victories last season (winning at Gainesville, Fla., and Brainerd, Minn.) and, for the second straight year, briefly led the POWERade point standings.
But in a sport in which thousandths of a second can mean the difference between victory and defeat, Prock and Densham know that constant improvement is tantamount to competitive survival.
This year's pre-season angst was compounded by the fact that two of the components they put to the test are not even yet legal for NHRA competition the new programmable MSD ignition system and the newest Goodyear "slick" tire.
Working at Firebird with components designed to "smooth the torque application," the Auto Club Ford didn't make it past 60 feet on nine straight runs "but we had some good (60-foot times)," Prock smiled.
"The thing that scares me the most right now is the weather," Prock said, referring to a forecast calling for rain on Friday and Saturday. The thought that you might just get two runs to qualify for this race doesn't make me feel very good."
The situation is compounded by the fact that the NHRA has replaced part of the concrete "launch pad" at the Fairplex, a circumstance that could drastically change the starting line dynamic.
Nevertheless, Densham is anxious to get the season underway.
The former high school auto shop teacher admits to being lost when he's not with his race car.
"I've haven't changed my opinion in 30 years," Densham said. "I'd rather be racing than doing anything else. I tell people 'a bad day racing is better than a good day doing anything else.'"
Since coming on board with John Force Racing in 2001, Densham has had a lot more more good days than bad. He's started from the No. 1 qualifying position five times, won six races, led the POWERade points on two different occasions and even held the national speed record.
But he hasn't won at the Fairplex, a drought he'd like to end this weekend.