BRAINERD, Minn. (Aug. 13) -- In the high stakes world of professional drag racing, drivers and crews are constantly pushing the limits of modern technology. From the tires to the individual components of the motor to the aerodynamic shape of the...
BRAINERD, Minn. (Aug. 13) -- In the high stakes world of professional drag racing, drivers and crews are constantly pushing the limits of modern technology. From the tires to the individual components of the motor to the aerodynamic shape of the car's body, nothing is left unchecked in the never-ending search for increased performance.
The team that is able to squeeze every single thousandths-of-a-second out of its machine without going a fraction too far is lauded in Victory Circle. The rest of the competitors go home empty-handed, wondering what they missed in the swirl of activity that revolves around a 6,200 horsepower rocketship and its handlers.
"You reach a point, usually after a string of bad luck like we've had, where it becomes time to rethink everything," said Funny Car driver Gary Densham, the pilot of the NEC/Auto Club of Southern California Firebird. "That's where we're at right now. Our car has run great at every event this year, but it hasn't been consistent every round. We'll set the world on fire one lap and the next pass will be a tire-smoker even though everything is set identical to the first lap.
"That tells me that something is malfunctioning. Our job is to find that something and fix it. We are currently taking this car down to every single individual piece. If it can be taken apart, we're taking it apart. Now, we're going through the painstaking process of examining each individual part, piece by piece, in hopes that we'll find our problem.
"So far, we haven't found anything encouraging. But this is a long process and we have to be patient. Our equipment is too good to not be producing better results than it's shown over the last several races. Through this basic process of elimination, we'll get this car back in front-runner status real soon."
Densham, a 52-year-old high school teacher from Bellflower, Calif., spent the first eight races of the 1999 season in the top 10 of the Winston championship points standings. Since then, his erratic performances have caused him to slip to 15th place. However, Densham remains just 77 points out of the top 10, meaning he could rejoin that elite group in one race.
The next opportunity for Densham to gain ground in the points race happens Aug. 19-22 at Brainerd International Raceway during the 18th Annual Colonel's Truck Accessories Nationals. "If we could solve this thing, we could be right back in the thick of things," Densham said. "It might as well be Brainerd. We've done well there in the past (back-to-back runner-up finishes in '94 and '95.) I'd love to take it one step further this time around."