Densham saves the day for Team Castrol Highlights: Gary Densham, who two weeks ago failed even to qualify for the Fram/Autolite Nationals at Sonoma, Calif., completed an unlikely turnaround by driving the Team Castrol/Automobile Club of ...
Densham saves the day for Team Castrol
Highlights: Gary Densham, who two weeks ago failed even to qualify for the Fram/Autolite Nationals at Sonoma, Calif., completed an unlikely turnaround by driving the Team Castrol/Automobile Club of Southern California Ford Mustang to victory in the 22nd annual Lucas Oil Nationals at Brainerd, Minn.
Densham beat Tim Wilkerson in the final round to earn his second win of the 2003 season and the sixth of his career. Runner-up to current teammate John Force in three previous final rounds at Brainerd International Raceway, Densham solidified his hold on fifth place in the NHRA POWERade points race by winning from the No. 7 starting position.
While Densham was making the transition from zero to hero, points leader Tony Pedregon extended his advantage over second place Whit Bazemore to 61 points by reaching the semifinals and ending a streak of three events in which he failed to advance beyond the first round.
Pedregon helped his own cause by beating Del Worsham in the first round, keeping the Pontiac driver from gaining any ground in points. He then disposed of No. 1 qualifier Gary Scelzi in the second round when he posted the quickest race day time of 4.959 seconds.
One of the day's biggest surprises was the first round exit of the two biggest winners in NHRA drag racing history: Force and Pro Stock standout Warren Johnson. Both were victimized by foul starts, Force against Bob Gilbertson and Johnson, a 91-time Pro Stock winner, against Larry Morgan.
It was Force's third foul start of the season, remarkable in that the 108-time tour winner had only four such infractions in his first 25 seasons on the NHRA tour.
TEAM CASTROL Details:
JOHN FORCE, Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang Funny Car Qualifying position and performance: 2nd at 4.944 seconds, 310.84 mph.
Race results: Lost to Bob Gilbertson.
Notable: Was guilty of a first round foul start.
"Driver error, plain and simple. I got distracted and my brain just said for me to 'go.' You can't think up there (at the starting line), you just have to react. I'd like to blame it on someone else or on something else, but I can't." -- JOHN FORCE.
TONY PEDREGON, Castrol SYNTEC Ford Mustang Funny Car
Qualifying position and performance: 8th at 5.032 seconds, 299.00 mph.
Race results: Beat Del Worsham, Gary Scelzi; lost to Tim Wilkerson.
Notable: Extended lead in race for the NHRA POWERade Funny Car Championship.
"Disappointing, but we did put some more points between ourselves and Bazemore and the car was running really well. It slowed down just enough to let Wilkerson get by us in the semifinals but beating Del and Scelzi was a big confidence builder." -- TONY PEDREGON.
GARY DENSHAM, Team Castrol/Auto Club of Southern California Ford Funny Car: Qualifying position and performance: 7th at 5.026 seconds, 308.00 mph.
Race results: Beat Tommy Johnson Jr., Bob Gilbertson, Frank Pedregon
Notable: Bounced back from qualifying failure two weeks before at Sonoma, Calif., to earn his sixth career victory and second of the current season.
"What a way to come back from Sonoma (and a DNQ). We've struggled with the new car but it's not the car, it's a great car. It's just taken a little while to get used to. With all the talent we've got here (at Team Castrol), though, it was just a matter of time until we figured it out." -- GARY DENSHAM.
Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, Indianapolis, Ind., Aug. 29-Sept. 1; Keystone Nationals, Reading, Pa., Sept. 14; O'Reilly Mid-South Nationals, Memphis, Tenn., Sept. 21; NHRA Route 66 Nationals, Joliet, Ill., Sept. 28; O'Reilly Fall Nationals, Dallas, Texas, Oct. 12; AC/Delco Las Vegas Nationals, Las Vegas, Nev., Oct. 26; Automobile Club of Southern California World Finals, Pomona, Calif., Nov. 9.