Top 3 Finish, Rookie-of-the-Year Still Within Duo's Reach READING, Pa. (Oct. 8-10) -- While boss and teammate John Force is trying to secure a record 13th series championship in this week's 20th annual Lucas Oil Nationals, Gary Densham and...
Top 3 Finish, Rookie-of-the-Year Still Within Duo's Reach
READING, Pa. (Oct. 8-10) -- While boss and teammate John Force is trying to secure a record 13th series championship in this week's 20th annual Lucas Oil Nationals, Gary Densham and Eric Medlen have their eye on other goals as the NHRA POWERade tour returns to Maple Grove Raceway.
Densham, the reigning Mac Tools U.S. Nationals Champion at the wheel of the Automobile Club of Southern California Ford Mustang, is trying to put himself in position to earn a Top 3 finish in the POWERade point standings.
Medlen, meanwhile, is strongly in contention for the Auto Club's Road to the Future Award (NHRA Rookie-of-the-year) at the wheel of the Castrol SYNTEC™ Ford.
Their performances this weekend, in a race interrupted three weeks ago by rain, will play a major role in determining whether they are able to achieve those goals.
Winless in his first 244 NHRA events, Densham has won eight times since coming on board at John Force Racing in 2001. Although he has been a Top 10 performer every season and even led the Funny Car points on two occasions, he never has finished higher than fourth in the driver standings.
With just three races remaining on the 2004 schedule, he is 66 points out of third place. That means that to get the position, he needs to qualify better than Gary Scelzi in each of those races and advance one round further than the three-time former NHRA Top Fuel Champion.
That task is made the more difficult by the fact that two other drivers, including his teammate, also are trying to track down Scelzi for third place.
Whit Bazemore, the points leader earlier in the season, presently is fourth in the order, 23 back of Scelzi while Medlen is fifth, 10 points ahead of Densham.
"I didn't say it would be easy," Densham said of his Top 3 bid, "but we know we have a race car that can step up at any one of these last three races and send everybody home."
Of course, Medlen has the same kind of car. Winner earlier this year at Brainerd, Minn. (in just his 16th career start), Medlen has gone to the semifinals or beyond in nine of 20 races this season and is coming off a strong performance at the CARQUEST Nationals in Joliet, Ill
The No. 3 qualifier at Joliet, Medlen was second quickest (4.740 seconds) behind Force's national record-setting 4.665 second effort in eliminations before being ousted in the semifinals by Del Worsham.
It was Worsham's experience that made the difference, his slight starting line advantage transforming a slower time into a winning time.
Nevertheless, that also has provided motivation for Medlen who, until he climbed into the cockpit at this year's season-opener, never before had driven a competitive round in any kind of car at an NHRA national event.
"The guys try to make you feel better," Medlen said, "but you just beat yourself up because you know you had the best car. All I can do is go out there this week and try to make it up to them. That's the good thing about the series. If you mess up, you've usually got a chance to make up for it the next week."