Densham Moving On To Next NHRA Career Challenge YORBA LINDA, Calif. - Although he is near the end of his four-year association with John Force Racing, Inc., reigning Mac Tools U.S. Nationals Champion Gary Densham isn't going anywhere. While...
Densham Moving On To Next NHRA Career Challenge
YORBA LINDA, Calif. - Although he is near the end of his four-year association with John Force Racing, Inc., reigning Mac Tools U.S. Nationals Champion Gary Densham isn't going anywhere.
While fulfilling the last of his obligations as driver of the Automobile Club of Southern California Ford Mustang, the eight-time tour winner is working to secure the funding necessary to insure his continued participation in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.
"It's been the best four years of my life," Densham said. "I've had the opportunity to race with the best team in drag racing and I learned a lot about what it takes to run a highly competitive team in the NHRA series.
"When John and I teamed up four years ago, I knew that it would be for a short term. My deal was supposed to end last year, but when John brought Eric Medlen on to drive the Castrol SYNTEC car, he asked me to stay and help with his training and what a great young driver he has become. Being around Eric has made me feel 30 years olds again."
Although he has won eight races wilth JFR, has led the POWERade points on two separate occasions, has held the national record and is all but assured of his four straight Top 10 finish, Densham has at least one more goal to achieve before he leaves the team.
"I really want to win the NHRA Finals," Densham said, "first, because it's sponsored by the Auto Club, with whom I've had such a great association through the race car sponsorship and the school program, and second, because Pomona (Calif.) is my home track and I've never won there before. Plus, it would be a great way to end it."
Not that Densham plans to go anywhere.
"John and I both want to be involved in NHRA drag racing for the next 20 years," Densham said. "To do that, you need to surround yourself with the best of the younger generation. That's why John brought Jimmy Prock to the team several years ago. We both are lucky to have family members interested in the sport to whom we can turn over the driving seat in the future.
"John has Ashley and I have my son, Steven. Maybe John and I won't be driving 20 years from now, but, then again, with The Greek (73-year-old Chris Karamesines) still out there, maybe we will."
"We all hate change, but we know it's inevitable," Force said. "I have to give the companies that support me a 10-to-20-year program, which is what I'm working on right now. It's been no secret that my son-in-law, Robert Hight, has been getting some seat time during testing and that one day I planned to evolve him into one of my race cars. That decision hasn't been made yet, but that was always the plan.
"Gary and I will continue to work together in the future, not only on his race program but on the development of the young drivers in my program - my daughter Ashley, Eric Medlen - who Gary worked with throughout this season, and, eventually, Robert. So Gary's not going away. He's still part of the family."
"All of the sponsors - Auto Club, Ford and Castrol - have been very supportive of my driving for John," Densham said. "I've made a lot of friends. Am I sad to leave? You bet. Most of all, I will miss the best crew a driver could ever have. Leaving them and Jimmy Prock is like leaving family."
As for the immediate future, Densham is looking for sponsorship help with Force's full support.
"I am actively seeking funding to run all 23 races next year," Densham acknowledged. "Corporate America needs to remember that baby boomers like John and me continue to drive the economy. I feel I still have much to bring to a sponsor. My school program for the Auto Club will continue. I am committed to that."
And if he doesn't secure the sponsorship he needs to run for the championship?
"Regardless, I promise I'll be at Pomona (for the season-opening K&N Filters Winternationals)."
Densham, who this year became just the fifth Funny Car driver in history to win the Skoal Showdown bonus race and the U.S. Nationals on the same weekend, presently is sixth in POWERade points with an opportunity to move up a couple of positions before season's end.
"John and I have been friends for 30 years," Densham said, "and we'll be friends for the next 30 - except maybe for the few moments when we're at the starting line together."