Happy Homecoming on Densham's Mind POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 5) -- The National Hot Rod Association's 1998 season started fast for schoolteacher Gary Densham. At the first race of the year, Densham, a high school auto shop teacher who moonlights ...
Happy Homecoming on Densham's Mind
POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 5) -- The National Hot Rod Association's 1998 season started fast for schoolteacher Gary Densham. At the first race of the year, Densham, a high school auto shop teacher who moonlights behind the wheel of the NEC/AAA Auto Club Nitro Funny Car, reached the semifinal round of the Winternationals at Pomona Raceway with an astounding Round 2 pass of 4.991 seconds at 305.49 mph.
Armed with a new sponsor and his new membership card to the elite Castrol 4-Second Club, Densham left Southern California confident that 1998 would finally be the year he could compete each week with the sport's big boys. "Pomona really got us off to a great start," Densham said. "Things were so smooth. The car was running strong and we were qualifying in the top half of the field every week. It seemed like all I had to do was get in the car, step on the gas, and she would zoom straight down the strip."
At the time, Densham had no way of knowing that the season opener would end up being his best NHRA race of the year. Despite qualifying for a career-best 19 races this season, he has notched just two more elimination-round wins. However, the year has not been bereft of wins. Densham found success on other circuits. Currently, he is the reigning and back-to-back champion of the American Hot Rod Association. Still, prosperity at the top level of his sport has continued to elude the Bellflower, Calif. native.
"We've beaten ourselves once or twice," Densham said. "But if you checked the numbers you'd see that the majority of the time, someone posted their best run of the weekend against us. The best news is that we know we have the car to compete. That's been the biggest boost for us all year. Now we need to win. It's time to get mean."
As the NHRA circuit returns to Pomona Raceway for the season-ending 34th Annual Winston Finals, Densham hopes that a little home cooking will propel him to his first Victory Circle celebration. "There is a lot of pressure for me at this race," Densham said. "Which usually makes me concentrate that much more. I'm a vital part of this car. Aside from driving, I do a lot of the work on the set-up. At Pomona, I've got all of my friends and family, my students, my sponsors and every guy I ever borrowed a wrench from stopping by to say hi. It's fun to see everyone but it can be distracting.
"My main goal is to win the race. We've had a lot of success at Pomona in the past and I plan on continuing that this time around. I want to show everyone, from my sponsors to the guys in the other lane, what we're capable of."