Gateway Densham Resets Plan of Attack

Densham resets plan of attack ST. LOUIS (June 18) -- The 1999 season started extremely fast for Funny Car driver Gary Densham. The former high school teacher took second place at the season-opener in Pomona, Calif., and remained in the ...

Densham resets plan of attack

ST. LOUIS (June 18) -- The 1999 season started extremely fast for Funny Car driver Gary Densham. The former high school teacher took second place at the season-opener in Pomona, Calif., and remained in the prestigious ranks of the top 10 in the Winston championship points standings through eight races. Then the bottom fell out.

Densham has uncharacteristically failed to qualify for the last two National Hot Rod Association events and, consequentially, has fallen to 14th place in the rankings. It is the worst two-race stretch Densham has had to endure in over two years and has the likable veteran determined to turn things around June 23-26 at the Third Annual Sears Craftsman Nationals at Gateway International Raceway.

"I've got to quit being stupid and learn some patience," said Densham, who pilots the NEC/Auto Club of Southern California Pontiac Firebird. "We'll be taking a few steps back in St. Louis and returning the car to the set-up we had in Pomona when we ran well. We have to go back to the things we know will work or this season will get away from us in a hurry."

Like most of his peers in the Funny Car class, Densham has spent a lot of time and effort this season trying to implement a five-disc clutch system. While the device initially showed potential, it has proven to be hard to adapt to the variances brought on by hot weather.

"We've been using four-disc clutches for so long that every bit of usable data we have in the files is from runs made with a four-disc clutch," Densham said. "When we go to a track with the five-disc clutch in there it's like starting over from ground zero. Everything, and I mean everything, on this car is different. We've had a hard time adjusting. I know we're not alone and that some of the other teams have been switching crew chiefs and drivers, but that doesn't make our situation any easier to handle. We need to take baby steps.

"John Force has won six races this year with a four-disc clutch. If it's good enough for him, it's good enough for me. The five-disc clutch is the wave of the future but we need more practice time with it to figure it out. For now, I want to get back to racing every weekend."

Densham and the rest of the NHRA pros will be competing under a new schedule in St. Louis. The revised, heat-relief measures call for qualifying sessions beginning at 3:45 p.m. and 7:45 p.m. Thursday and Friday with final eliminations beginning at 4 p.m. Saturday.

"It'll be a nice show for the fans, which is great," Densham said. "But it'll still be three long, hot days for us. We've got too much work to do to sit by the pool all day."

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Gary Densham