Joliet: Gary Densham preview

Densham Looks For Improvement In Return To Scene Of Best Effort Auto Club Ford Driver Seeks Return to 4.723 Second Form JOLIET, Ill. (May 21-23) -- Gary Densham returns this week Route 66 Raceway, the track on which, less than a year ago,...

Densham Looks For Improvement In Return To Scene Of Best Effort
Auto Club Ford Driver Seeks Return to 4.723 Second Form

JOLIET, Ill. (May 21-23) -- Gary Densham returns this week Route 66 Raceway, the track on which, less than a year ago, he recorded the quickest quarter mile of his career and one of the quickest in the history of the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series -- 4.723 seconds.

In many ways, Densham's effort during last fall's CARQUEST Nationals was even more impressive than the national record-setting 4.721 posted by teammate John Force on the same track last spring.

Notably, the Densham-driven Automobile Club of Southern California Ford Mustang may be the heaviest Funny Car competing in this week's seventh annual NHRA Route 66 Nationals.

     "It's almost 100 pounds over the (2,400 pound) minimum," acknowledged crew
chief Jimmy Prock.  "That's a lot of extra weight to move."
     In fact, the rule of thumb among most crew chiefs is that every hundred pounds
over the minimum is a tenth of a second performance penalty.  You do the math.

Nevertheless, despite the handicap, one which is equal parts race car and barrel-chested driver, Densham has remained one of Funny Car racing's top performers.

Already this year, he has claimed two Skoal Showdown No. 1 qualifier bonuses, was runner-up at the season-opening K&N Filters Winternationals at Pomona, Calif., set a track speed record at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (327.27 miles per hour) and climbed as high as second in POWERade driver points.

Nevertheless, he returns to Route 66 Raceway hoping to pump new life into his bid for the 2004 NHRA POWERade Championship and he may have to slow down to do so.

That's because while Densham has been quick and fast this season, he hasn't been consistent and therein lies the secret to his boss and teammate's record 12 series titles and 110 tour victories.

"The hardest thing for a racer to learn is how to do is slow down," Densham said, "but if that's what it takes, we're ready to give up a little performance for chance to put this Auto Club Ford in the winners' circle."

The Jekyll-and-Hyde personality of Densham's red, white and blue Ford is nowhere more apparent than in the point standings.

While the six-time NHRA tour winner is only middle-of-the pack in POWERade points, reflecting his success in head-to-head competition this year, he leads the Skoal Showdown driver standings, a reflection of qualifying performance.

"It's great to go fast," said the 57-year-old veteran, "but to win the championship, you have to race the track along with all the guys.

"We're trying to learn how to calm our hot rod down so that when it gets hot, we still can go from A to B."

That's not to say that when it's cool, Densham and Prock won't take another shot at that record.

"We're racers," Densham said. "What do you expect?"

- www.johnforceracing.com

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Series NHRA
Drivers Gary Densham