Gainesville: Gary Densham preview

Auto Club Ford Mustang on a High Performance Roll GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 18-21) -- Although Gary Densham is winless after the season's first two events, the former auto shop teacher won't be punchless when he defends his championship in this...

Auto Club Ford Mustang on a High Performance Roll

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 18-21) -- Although Gary Densham is winless after the season's first two events, the former auto shop teacher won't be punchless when he defends his championship in this week's 35th annual Mac Tools Gatornationals.

In fact, the Automobile Club of Southern California Ford Mustang he's driving this year for John Force Racing has been the single most impressive Funny Car of the new season.

Runner-up at the season-opening K&N Filters Winternationals at Pomona, Calif., (where he was clocked in 4.757 seconds at 327.11 miles per hour) seconds) and the No. 1 qualifier at the Checker/Schuck's/Kragen Nationals at Phoenix, Ariz. (where he established track records of 4.773 seconds, 325.77 mph), Densham rolls into Gainesville Raceway second in the NHRA POWERade point standings behind only Del Worsham.

Not only does barrel-chested Californian believe that his patriotically-painted Ford is capable of repeating last year's Gainesville success, he also believes it capable of challenging the Dodges of Whit Bazemore and Gary Scelzi in the race to become the first to break the 330 mph barrier.

Told that Scelzi and Bazemore both believe that barrier could fall as early as this week, Densham cautioned against counting his Ford out of the top speed sweepstakes.

"We're definitely on a roll right now," said the resident of Bellflower, Calif, "where the guys are working perfect together, the car's running really well and Jimmy (Crew Chief Jimmy Prock) just seems to be working magic every time he makes a decision.

"You hope it lasts all year long," he continued. "You know it won't, but I sure am enjoying it right now. When we ran 325 at Phoenix, which broke the track record by three miles an hour, the first thing I thought about were the supertracks. I told someone that there was no doubt that this car would run 330 once we got to a place like Chicago or Dallas, but with the racetrack renovation at Gainesville, who knows?

"If the track is a good as they say, the weather cooperates and Jimmy doesn't bump his head, who's to say what's possible and what isn't?"

Officially the fastest of Team Force's three Mustangs, the Auto Club Ford has posted top speed of the event 17 times in the last three-plus seasons and for almost an entire year was the NHRA national record holder for Funny Car speed. Although Scelzi's Dodge owns the current national record at 329.18 mph, Densham's 327.43 mph effort at last November's Auto Club World Finals makes his hybrid the second fastest in history.

That said, Densham emphasized that his team won't sacrifice a shot at winning the race for a shot at the record.

"A speed record would be nice, but it doesn't pay anything," Densham said, "and our goal here is to repeat (as champion) at the Gatornationals."

As for his aspirations for the remainder of the season, the six-time tour winner acknowledged that, in a perfect world, "I'd like to go back and win Indy (the 50th anniversary U.S. Nationals) and the Skoal Shootout and then win the Auto Club Finals (at Pomona). And I guess we might as well throw in a championship along the way."

And the speed record? Well, that would be justs icing on the cake.

-www.johnforceracing.com

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Series NHRA
Drivers Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Gary Densham