School Teacher looking for Fast Times in Kansas TOPEKA, Kan, (Sept. 24) - It may not be Ridgemont High, but school-teacher-turned Funny-Car-driver Gary Densham still thinks Heartland Park Topeka is the place for Fast Times. Densham, who...
School Teacher looking for Fast Times in Kansas
TOPEKA, Kan, (Sept. 24) - It may not be Ridgemont High, but school-teacher-turned Funny-Car-driver Gary Densham still thinks Heartland Park Topeka is the place for Fast Times. Densham, who drives the NEC/AAA Auto Club of Southern California Nitro Funny Car when he is not teaching high school auto shop, is planning on showing just how fast the smooth quarter-mile strip is when the 10th annual Parts America Nationals begin on Thursday.
"This track is the baddest, fastest place around," Densham said. "And I'm ready to tear it up. I have been at this drag racing game for some time and I can tell you one thing for sure - this is 'The Place' to go fast. Always has been, always will be. Plus, now that this race has officially moved from the summer months to the fall months, you'd better watch for new records every time a car goes down the track. It will be that quick."
Densham has been exceptionally quick himself on several occasions in 1998. Earlier this year, with many of his students on hand at his home track in Pomona, Calif., Densham blistered the strip with an amazing 4.991-second pass at 305.49 mph. The breakneck time put him in the prestigious company of former point's champions John Force, Cruz Pedregon and Mark Oswald as one of only 13 Funny Car drivers that have covered the strip in less than five seconds. It also automatically made Densham a member of the elite Castrol 5-Second Club. "Aside from the $3,000 in tickets I bought for all my students, that was a great weekend," Densham said with a laugh.
The 51-year-old veteran has continued to improve at all points on the track as the 1998 season has progressed, recording several 300-plus mph runs while keeping his elapsed times within fractions of the magical five-second mark. "We have raced a few people that are posting career-best runs against us and that's held us down a little," Densham said. "And there have been times, like at the last race in Reading (Pa.), where I just flat-out didn't run well. We had fuel system problems (in Reading) and ended up destroying a lot of parts. Stuff like that happens. The mood of the team is great. They all know we're doing the right things to win so we'll keep working hard and luck will turn our way."
The race in Reading marked the 14th time this season where Densham has successfully placed his NEC/AAA Club of Southern California Nitro Funny Car in the field of 16 cars vying for the event's title. Additionally, he has notched four elimination round wins in 1998 and reached the semifinal round on one occasion.