First-round loss won't discourage Densham INDIANAPOLIS -- At the start of the day, school-teacher-turned-drag-racer Gary Densham didn't mind the fact that he was working on a national holiday. After all, Densham had successfully qualified his...
First-round loss won't discourage Densham
INDIANAPOLIS -- At the start of the day, school-teacher-turned-drag-racer Gary Densham didn't mind the fact that he was working on a national holiday. After all, Densham had successfully qualified his NEC/AAA Club of Southern California Nitro Funny Car for the elimination round of the National Hot Rod Association's biggest event, the 44th annual U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis Raceway Park. By lunchtime, Densham, who spends his time away from the track teaching auto shop at Bellflower High School in Bellflower, Calif., was wishing there were more to do.
For the sixth time in his last seven NHRA races, Densham was dismissed in Round 1 of eliminations despite running an elapsed time that would have won several of the other opening races. "We continue to keep alive this disturbing trend of being the quickest loser of the first round," Densham said. "If you watch the other races out there, over half of them are decided when one, or sometimes both, of the cars in the race smoke the tires and basically give the race away. That just never happens to the guys racing us."
Competing out of the No. 13 spot after qualifying with a 5.158-seconds, 283.73-mph lap, Densham faced the bracket's fourth best qualifier, Chuck Etchells, who had earned his starting position with a pass of 5.057 seconds at 304.36 mph. "Chuck's a great driver but we were right there with him initially," Densham said. "Then, at about the 300-foot mark, my clutch let go, which knocked all the fixtures loose and caused the clutch to slip. Then I saw Chuck go flying by. He beat me straight up."
The final scoreboard had Etchells in front with a time of 4.968 seconds at 309.70 mph to Densham's 5.116-second, 293.63-mph pass. It was the third time the two men have raced each other this year with Etchells winning all three races.
"Well, I refuse to get discouraged," Densham said. "Running a 5.11 ain't shabby on race day and it'll win you the race most of the time. At least we're competitive every lap. We're not giving races away with tire-smokers or red-lights (starting line violations). People know they have to beat us on the track. Eventually, all of this hard work will pay off. I just know it will. I owe it to our sponsors and the crew."
Densham has won four elimination round races in 14 events this season. He is currently in 13th place in the Winston Funny Car points standings.