Sonoma: Gary Densham preview

Team Castrol Driver tries to break out of recent slump SONOMA, Calif. (August 1-3) -- Although he has enjoyed little success in the Fram/Autolite Nationals, winning just three rounds in 12 career appearances, veteran Funny Car driver Gary...

Team Castrol Driver tries to break out of recent slump

SONOMA, Calif. (August 1-3) -- Although he has enjoyed little success in the Fram/Autolite Nationals, winning just three rounds in 12 career appearances, veteran Funny Car driver Gary Densham never lacks for fan support when he appears at Infineon Raceway.

Some of it comes from former students at Gahr High School in Cerritos, Calif., where he taught auto shop for 27 years.

More comes from the thousands of Northern California members of the Automobile Club of Southern California, primary sponsor of the Ford Mustang Densham drives for Team Castrol and John Force Racing.

However, most comes from race fans who remember the barrel-chested veteran from his numerous appearances at the former Sears Point Raceway as well as other area tracks, most of them now gone.

"We used to run Half Moon Bay, Fremont, all those places," Densham said. "Obviously, the Bay Area has had a great tradition of racing forever. Fremont was a great track back in its time. Half Moon Bay was always a little scary because you (could) run off into the ocean. But it still was a fun place to go."

"I've got a lot of old friends that hang out (up here) and love to come to Sonoma to the new facility they've put together here."

"When I ran my own car, we ran mostly on the West Coast, because I had to be back to school on Monday (as did the students who served as a makeshift crew). We were lucky enough, way back when, to run about 30 races a year and never go any farther east than Denver. We'd run pretty much every weekend whether it be at Fremont or Sacramento or the old Las Vegas track or Phoenix. At one time we ran 10 race dates in 14 days, so it got pretty busy," Densham said.

Unfortunately, Densham has not yet been able to translate any of his past success at Bay Area tracks into anything positive at the Fram/Autolite Nationals.

The one year it appeared that he might have a handle on the track, he never even made it to the first round.

In the pre-race warmup, the engine exploded in front of Densham, who suffered shrapnel injuries serious enough to send him to the hospital via medi-vac helicopter.

"I go out and qualify No. 2, one of the best runs of my life," Densham recalled. "Everything's looking pretty good. I'm all excited about the first round. We went to crank the motor over. We didn't even have any ignition, but the thing just hydraulic-ed, blew the head off it, blew the back of the block off and gave me a couple of scratches. So, I got a ride in the helicopter, but with no drinks and no stewardesses."

"All in all, it was a pretty expensive flight, but we were lucky enough to get the doc to okay me and we were up in Seattle racing the next weekend."

"In the old trailer, I guess I had the car loaded on an angle," Densham said, "and, somehow, overnight less than a cup of fuel drained into one of the rear cylinders. When we turned the engine over, it just blew up."

Densham hopes to be a little less spectacular, but a little more productive, this week.

Currently fifth in POWERade points, he's seeking his second victory of the season, the fifth of his career, all since joining John Force Racing in March, 2001.

DID YOU KNOW:

For 29 years, Gary was the auto shop teacher at Gahr High School in Cerritos, Calif., and for most of that time he campaigned a Funny Car with a crew comprised of current and former students....last year, Gary became just the 14th different driver to lead the Funny Car point standings over the last 13 years ....Gary speaks to more than 60 student groups each year on behalf of the Automobile Club of Southern California, encouraging goal-setting and safe driving and detailing the number of careers available in automotive field....Gary's 20-year-old son, Steven, is licensed to compete in the Top Alcohol Funny Car class.

-jfr-

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Gary Densham