Densham Brainerd Preview

Hot Rod-driving school teacher looking for luck BRAINERD, Minn. & ...

Hot Rod-driving school teacher looking for luck

BRAINERD, Minn. – In the mind of high school auto shop teacher Gary Densham, only one thing is missing from his life these days. “I just need a little dose of luck,” Densham said with a smile. “Then everything else will fall into place.”

Densham, who moonlights as a Funny Car driver in the National Hot Rod Association’s professional ranks, is glad to be returning to Brainerd International Raceway for the 17th annual VisonAire NorthStar Nationals which start on Aug. 20. Densham believes Brainerd’s slick quarter-mile strip, the site of his back-to-back runner-up appearances in 1995 and 1994, is one of his luckiest stops on the NHRA’s 22-event circuit.

“I love Brainerd,” Densham said. “It’s one of our favorite places to go. Things always seem to fall our way there. It’s our lucky track. When I reached the finals in ’95, it was pure luck. I remember racing against Whit Bazemore in the semifinals and he had me beat. I thought ‘Oh well, there he goes,’ as he drove by me. Then, out of nowhere, he crosses the centerline, gets disqualified and I advance. Trust me, that doesn’t happen very often. If I got a little bit of luck like that this time around, I can win this race.”

Good fortune has certainly been in short supply for Densham in 1998. Despite qualifying his NEC/AAA Auto Club Funny Car in 12 of 14 races this season, Densham has advanced past the first round on only three occasions. What’s been discouraging for the entire team is that Densham has never been in a better position to win races. Of the 12 races in which Densham has qualified this year, he has been in the upper half of the qualifying field on eight occasions. “Our qualifying performances are up dramatically. Before NEC and AAA got behind this car we were qualifying in the 12th-16th-place range. Now, we are consistently in the fifth-10th-place range. This car is better than anything we’ve had in the past and we’re very happy with the results.”

Away from the NHRA, Densham has been running extremely well. In July, Densham captured the Funny Car title of the Oregon Championships. Then, on Aug. 9, his NEC/AAA machine again found the Victory Circle, this time at the Spokane Nationals.

“These other races just prove that our car is one of the strongest ones out there,” Densham said. “All the other big-time NHRA guys go these events and we’ve proven that we can beat them all. It’s a nice moral boost for the guys and for me. Now we need an NHRA win. All I need is a little bit of luck.”

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Series NHRA
Drivers Whit Bazemore