READING, Pa. (Sept. 12-14) -- On the eve of this week's 19th annual Lucas Oil Keystone Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway, Gary Densham apparently has recaptured the form that earlier in the season catapulted him into the NHRA POWERade points ...
READING, Pa. (Sept. 12-14) -- On the eve of this week's 19th annual Lucas Oil Keystone Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway, Gary Densham apparently has recaptured the form that earlier in the season catapulted him into the NHRA POWERade points lead.J The upshot is that school may be out for rivals of the former high school auto shop teacher who trails boss and teammate John Force by 82 points in an ongoing battle for the No. 3 position behind front-runners Tony Pedregon and Whit Bazemore.
Following a four-race swoon during which he followed three consecutive first round losses with a qualifying failure at the Fram/Autolite Nationals at Sonoma, Calif., a resurgent Densham has won once and "almost won" a second time.
The near miss came at last week's rain-extended Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis, Ind., in which a broken pushrod took Densham's Jimmy Prock-prepared Team Castrol/Automobile Club of Southern California Ford Mustang out of competition in the semifinals, just when the 56-year-old resident of Bellflower, Calif., was poised to claim the biggest victory of his career.
"That was a tough one," Densham said. "After John and Tony and Bazemore all went out, I told myself, 'you're going to win the U.S. Nationals.' Then it all fell apart."
The disappointment was the more bitter because of the fact that Densham had posted the quickest time during eliminations (4.812 seconds) in a first round victory over Bob Bode. After he dispatched Tommy Johnson Jr. in round two, he went into the semifinals as the highest qualified survivor (No. 4). But it wasn't to be.
Now, the six-time tour winner will try to put the near miss behind him in a Keystone Nationals event that, in the past, has not been kind.J He is 0-10 at Maple Grove Raceway where he has nothing to show for some big league numbers (4.790 seconds, 319.37 miles per hour).
"We haven't done much before," Densham said, "but I think we're on a roll right now. I think Jimmy has this thing figured out pretty good."
Winner of two races in each of his three seasons at the wheel of the Force-owned Auto Club Ford, Densham is trying to improve on what last year was a career year, one in which he led the points for four races and finished fourth overall, his best showing in 20 years.