Waiting his turn, Densham eyes Seattle SEATTLE -- The averages have to turn his way eventually. Eleven times in 1998, Funny Car drag racer Gary Densham has driven his NEC machine comfortably into the 16-car qualifying field of a National Hot ...
Waiting his turn, Densham eyes Seattle
SEATTLE -- The averages have to turn his way eventually. Eleven times in 1998, Funny Car drag racer Gary Densham has driven his NEC machine comfortably into the 16-car qualifying field of a National Hot Rod Association event only to suffer an early exit when elimination racing starts. Losses would be easier to take, perhaps, if a better car outran Densham or if he was beating himself with tire-smokers and engine failures. But that hasn't been the case. Instead, Densham's competitors -- to a man -- turn in their best lap of the weekend when they line-up against the affable high school auto shop teacher.
"We've run well at every track we've been to this year," Densham said. "But our Sunday luck has just been terrible. Our last race (in Sonoma, Calif.) provided another good example of our luck. After two days of good qualifying races, I came out in Round 1 on Sunday, improved on my best time of the event by almost a tenth of a second and still lost the race against a guy who had made only one good run all weekend. It's been depressing because I know we have a great car and just I haven't been able to show it off yet."
Remarkably, in seven of the 11 races he has qualified for this season, Densham has put his car in the upper half of the qualifying field, giving him the all-important advantage of lane choice. Unfortunately, the edge has yielded just three wins. The other races have all ended with miniscule losses where Densham finds himself on the wrong end of a photo finish.
"We're simply not getting any breaks," Densham said. "At least I can honestly say that we're not beating ourselves like we did in the past. Our strategy used to be that we'd go all out if we reached the elimination rounds. I'd get out there and stand on it and hope for the best. But a lot of those races ended with us smoking the tires or blowing the engine. Trust me, beating yourself is worse then getting beat. So when this year started and we realized we would be one of the top teams qualifying for every race, we decided to attack Sundays with a definite game plan. Now, we always try to dial-in the car to the most competitive set-up we can find without crossing that line of going-for-broke at all costs. I really want to stick with our plan and hope it pays off before long. Hopefully, it will start this week in Seattle."
Densham has found success in the past at Seattle International Raceway. He finished as the Funny Car runner-up at the 1995 national event. "I lost by that much," Densham said, holding his thumb and forefinger two inches apart. "I really like that track. But, I've heard a rumor that it's completely different since they resurfaced the strip. I guess time will tell whether or not I still like it. I hope to do well. I've got a young crew that's been working very hard all year and they deserve a win. I'd love to turn our luck in Seattle."