Las Vegas: Gary Densham preview

Back On a Fast Track, Densham Hopes To Regain Lost Momentum Auto Club Mustang Aims for Second Victory at Las Vegas LAS VEGAS, Nev. (April 2-4) -- John Force, drag racing's most prolific winner, always has said that drag racing is a sport in...

Back On a Fast Track, Densham Hopes To Regain Lost Momentum
Auto Club Mustang Aims for Second Victory at Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS, Nev. (April 2-4) -- John Force, drag racing's most prolific winner, always has said that drag racing is a sport in which one should be able to function at a very high level for a very long time. Gary Densham is the proof.

Densham, a former high school auto shop teacher, has been driving Funny Cars for as long as there have been Funny Cars.

Nevertheless, it's only now, at age 57, that the driver of the Automobile Club of Southern California Ford Mustang feels like he is coming into his own as a pro driver.

He expects to prove that again this week when he competes in the fifth Summitracing.com Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Following a misstep last month at Gainesville, Fla., Densham is anxious to get his red, white and blue Ford back on a surface where it can flex its considerable muscle.

That Densham will contend for the Funny Car championship this week is as sure a bet as one can find in Las Vegas. Winner of the 2002 Summit event, Densham got to the semifinals last April before yielding to then teammate Tony Pedregon.

"We always seem to run well at Vegas," Densham said, "but when you've got Jimmy Prock turning the wrenches, you run well most places you go. I think right now we have everything working for us. Jimmy's making the right calls, the crew is great and I'm driving a little bit, too.

"Throw Gainesville out," Densham said. "It was a freak deal. We got there to a track condition we thought was going to be great because they resurfaced it, but, in reality, it really was worse. We never could get hold of the track. We only ran 290-something. And this is a car that runs 320 down a dirt road."

Indeed, Densham, a former national record holder for quarter mile speed, is the current track record holder at 326.56 miles per hour. Moreover, his is the only one of the Force Racing Mustangs to have broken the 4.80 second barrier in this event.

Already the oldest Funny Car driver to win an NHRA national event (56 when he won last August at Brainerd, Minn.), Densham is far from finished.

"It's great to be back with John for another season," Densham said, "but I'm having so much fun, I don't want to quit. I think I still have some good years as a driver. In this sport, experience is something you can't buy and I've been going down racetracks in these cars for more than 30 years.

"If I ever feel like I can't be competitive, then, sure, I'll step out of it and start a new career as the Crew Chief for my son (Steven, 21). But right now I feel like I can still make a contribution as a driver, maybe even get a championship."

Runner-up at the season-opening K&N Filters Winternationals and the No. 1 qualifier at the CSK Nationals at Phoenix, Densham presently is third in the POWERade points race behind Del Worsham and Force. That No. 1 spot, while out of reach at this race, is very much in Densham's head.

"We've led the points each of the last two years," he said. "The problem was that we just led at the wrong times. If we can avoid the big mistake, there's no reason why we can't be in the race for the championship. Since I've been on board with John, I've accomplished almost all my goals in the sport. Back when I ran my own car, I never even thought about a championship, but when you've got a car this good, it's hard not to dream."

- www.johnforceracing.com

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , Del Worsham , John Force , Gary Densham