Indianapolis: Gary Densham preview

Team Castrol Driver is Major Threat in Labor Day Classic INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Aug. 29-Sept. 1) -- Coming off an Aug. 17 victory at Brainerd, Minn., and a strong test effort last week at Indianapolis Raceway Park, veteran Gary Densham is ...

Team Castrol Driver is Major Threat in Labor Day Classic

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Aug. 29-Sept. 1) -- Coming off an Aug. 17 victory at Brainerd, Minn., and a strong test effort last week at Indianapolis Raceway Park, veteran Gary Densham is looking more and more like a legitimate contender for the Funny Car championship in this week's 49th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals.

Although he hasn't made it past the second round in 17 previous pilgrimages to IRP, the Mecca of straight-line motor racing, the 56-year-old Densham is riding a wave of high-speed momentum.

He followed his victory in the Lucas Oil Nationals with a 4.807 second, 320.43 mile per hour test run at IRP, second best during two days of tests that drew 16 Funny Car participants.

Moreover, Densham is nothing if not a poster boy for late-career success.

Winless in his first 20 seasons on the NHRA tour, he earned a breakthrough victory at the 2001 Mid-South Nationals at Memphis, Tenn. He's been winning ever since.

"Heck, I ran almost 250 NHRA races (245, actually) before I finally won," said the former high school auto shop teacher. "I hadn't given up. I knew that as long as I kept going to the final round (as he did six times with his own independently-financed cars), eventually the racing Gods would shine down on me."

Since joining John Force Racing as driver of the Team Castrol/Automobile Club of Southern California Ford Mustang, Densham has demonstrated what his boss knew all along.

"I always knew Densham could drive a race car," Force said of his friend of 30 years, "but you have to have more than driving ability (to win in an arena as competitive as the POWERade Series). When he won at Memphis, I was as happy as when I won my first race (at Montreal, Canada, in 1987)."

As driver of the third of the Force Racing Fords, Densham has won two races each of the last three seasons. He also has earned five Budweiser No. 1 qualifier awards, held the NHRA national speed record for Funny Cars for more than a calendar year and twice has led the POWERade point standings.

While he always thought he would win a race or two, qualifying No. 1 and leading the points are accomplishments that were never, ever on the veteran's radar.

"It's been all good," he said. "Working with (Crew Chief) Jimmy Prock and racing with John.... It's a lot different racing as an independent. I've learned a lot about how the other half lives. The big thing is the money. To compete, you have to have sponsor dollars. No matter how innovative you are, without the money, today you just can't keep up."

Fifth in points entering the Nationals, Densham and Prock are focused on improving on a 2002 season in which they finished fourth in points after sitting atop the standings for four races. They were on track to do so until they missed the starting lineup at the Fram-Autolite Nationals at Sonoma, Calif.

     "That was a bad weekend," Densham said, "but the important thing is that we
responded (winning at Brained, the next event in the series).  We needed a boost and
we got one.  Now, I think we're going to be hard to beat."

Castrol is a global leader in marketing premium automotive product brands such as Castrol GTX, Castrol GTX High Mileage, Castrol SYNTEC, Castrol SYNTEC Blend and Castrol Super Clean. Castrol North America markets its lubricants and services to lube operators, automotive service providers and select retailers in North America. Castrol, the automotive marketing and technology leader with more than 100 years' experience, offers world-class retailer and installer support under one united global brand. Call 1-888-CASTROL or visit www.castrolusa.com.

-www.johnforceracing.com

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Gary Densham