Densham Tries To Close Points Gap As Tour Moves To Thunder Valley Auto Club Ford Owns Bristol Dragway Speed Record BRISTOL, Tenn. (April 30-May 2) -- Every time he's driven a Funny Car at Bristol Dragway, site of this week's fourth annual...
Densham Tries To Close Points Gap As Tour Moves To Thunder Valley
Auto Club Ford Owns Bristol Dragway Speed Record
BRISTOL, Tenn. (April 30-May 2) -- Every time he's driven a Funny Car at Bristol Dragway, site of this week's fourth annual O'Reilly Auto Parts Thunder Valley Nationals, Gary Densham has made his presence felt.
In 2001, he put a Jimmy Prock-prepared Automobile Club of Southern California Ford Mustang on the "pole," earning the first No. 1 qualifying bonus of his then-30- year career.
In 2002, after qualifying only 16th, he fought his way to the final round before losing to Whit Bazemore.
Finally, in 2003, he set a track speed record when he accelerated the blue, red and white Mustang through the finish line timers at 325.06 miles per hour.
In fact, in the event's brief three-year history, all the former high school auto shop teacher hasn't done is reach the winners' circle, an oversight he hopes to address this weekend.
Ironically, Densham's performance at Bristol Dragway mirrors his 2004 season, one in which he hasn't won a race but one in which he has been in the spotlight. He's gone to finals one time (at the season-opener at Pomona, Calif.), led the qualifying (at both Phoenix and Houston) and set two track speed records (325.77 mph at Phoenix; 327.27 mph at Las Vegas).
This week, though, the 57-year-old resident of Bellflower, Calif., thinks he may an edge, one that not only will help deliver a victory but one that will help close the gap on runaway points leader Del Worsham.
"Everybody is going to be on the new Goodyear tire this week for the first time," Densham said, "but Jimmy and I have been running it for a couple races and we've tested with it ever since it came out. Hopefully, we learned some things that will help us get down the track a little quicker than those guys who are playing catch-up."
Densham was on the new tire two weeks ago at Houston when he led Funny Car qualifying with a time of 4.846. The rub is that his pole-winning run came on Friday evening when the track and air temperatures were both considerably cooler than at any other time during the weekend.
In race day heat, Densham and his race car struggled for traction.
"This tire isn't as good in the heat as the old one," Densham said, "but it's a lot smoother. It's just going to take a little longer for these Crew Chiefs to figure it out. I think we're pretty close, but we'll have to wait and see."
A six-time NHRA tour winner, Densham led the POWERade points each of the last two seasons.
"I always figured I'd win a race," Densham said, "even back when I was running my own car. But I never thought about winning the championship just because, realistically, there was no way I was ever going to have the resources."
That changed with his arrival at Jon Force Racing in 2001.
"John was looking for a driver and, at the time, I didn't think I had enough sponsorship to run the whole year," Densham recalled. "It was another one of those 'good timing' situations and the last three years, with Jimmy Prock, I can tell you it's been all good."