Atlanta Gary Densham Preview

School teacher learning at 300 mph ATLANTA (May 7) - An old adage says you're never too old to learn. It's a credo most people live by. But somehow you get the feeling that the writer who first penned the famous quote never expected it to be ...

School teacher learning at 300 mph

ATLANTA (May 7) - An old adage says you're never too old to learn. It's a credo most people live by. But somehow you get the feeling that the writer who first penned the famous quote never expected it to be carried out by a career schoolteacher while he was driving down a quarter-mile drag strip at speeds in excess of 300 mph.

But that's exactly where Gahr (Calif.) High School instructor Gary Densham employs the famous line as he pilots his NEC/Auto Club of Southern California Nitro Funny Car through sub-five-second laps. Densham, who is currently on a leave of absence from teaching, has opted to chase his dream of being the fastest man alive on the 22-race National Hot Rod Association circuit. And as the world's quickest drivers descend on Atlanta Dragway May 13-16 for the 19th Annual Advance Auto Parts Nationals, the 52-year-old Densham plans to continue to prove the fact that you really are never too old to learn.

"I've been at this a long time," said Densham, a 34-year drag racing veteran. "And I never make a pass where I don't learn something. Even if you're learning things not to do, you're still learning something. That's exactly what I tell the kids I go and talk to around the country - always keep your mind open and you'll be amazed at what you learn."

Currently Densham and crew are trying to master a five-disc clutch system that is the next generation of technology in the NHRA's Nitro fuel classes. So far, in three races with the new system, Densham has seen marked improvement in his car. Now he's looking for more as he and the rest of the Funny Car class chase down front-runner John Force.

"We continue to work on ways to get this car to consistently run 4.9-second laps," Densham said. "That's what it will take to challenge the No. 1 guy. We used to have to run on the edge to go 5-flat. Now we can do that with our eyes closed so we're trying to learn how to get to that next level. We're getting closer every race."

Densham has qualified for all six races this season and has recorded four elimination round wins. He is currently eighth in the Winston championship points standings.

"Being solidly in the Top 10 is great," Densham said. "But I'm a competitor to the core and I want to do better than everyone else. That means pushing as hard as we can to be No. 1. All of us (drivers) are like that. If you pick up a rock out of the creek bed and paint 'Winner' on it and say 'This is what you're racing for boys and girls,' we'd all kill each other to get that rock. Well, by the time we leave Atlanta, I want the rock that says 'Champion' on it."

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Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Gary Densham