Las Vegas II: Gary Densham preview

With spotlight focused on teammates, Densham hopes to steal a win LAS VEGAS, Nev. (Oct. 24-26) -- The Castrol Mustang most likely to be overlooked this week when the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series returns to The Strip at Las Vegas Motor...

With spotlight focused on teammates, Densham hopes to steal a win

LAS VEGAS, Nev. (Oct. 24-26) -- The Castrol Mustang most likely to be overlooked this week when the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series returns to The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is, surprisingly enough, the fastest Ford on the planet.

The Team Castrol/Automobile Club of Southern California Mustang driven last month to a speed of 327.27 miles per hour by journeyman Gary Densham, is the odd Ford out in this week's third annual AC/Delco Las Vegas Nationals.

Why? Well, the Castrol SYNTEC0 Mustang driven by Tony Pedregon is the FOGI (Ford of Greatest Interest), poised as it is atop the Funny Car point standings with a chance of clinching an 11th straight series title for John Force Racing.

The FOSI (Ford of Secondary Interest) is the Castrol GTX High Mileage Mustang in which Force, the 12-time NHRA Funny Car Champion, is defending his AC/Delco title and seeking his second consecutive tour victory.

It's a situation that doesn't concern the 56-year-old Densham one bit.

"With all the attention on John and Tony, maybe we can stay under the radar," Densham said. "Maybe they won't notice us until we're in the winners' circle drinking our POWERade."

Of course, it's not as if anyone really could overlook a 327 mile-an-hour Funny Car, especially one that already has visited the winners' circle twice this season -- at Gainesville, Fla., and Brainerd, Minn.

Densham, in his final season with Team Castrol and Force Racing, has made no secret of the fact that the race he really wants to win is the Auto Club Finals at Pomona, Calif., two weeks hence.

"In a perfect world, that would be how I'd want to end my deal," Densham said, "by winning my last race with John on my home track in a race sponsored by the Auto Club. But don't get me wrong, it wouldn't hurt my feelings to win this race AND the Finals."

A six-time winner in three seasons with Force, whom he befriended when the two randomly were thrown together for an Australian tour in 1974, Densham isn't among the top five choices of Las Vegas oddsmakers despite the fact that he owns the track speed record (326.56 mph) and has won previously at The Strip (the 2002 SummitRacing.com Nationals).

The Bellflower, Calif., veteran is listed at only 10-1 behind two drivers who trail him in the current POWERade point standings -- Gary Scelzi and Del Worsham.

Apparently, the oddsmakers haven't been paying attention. Densham not only has won since Scelzi and Worsham, he also has been putting up bigger numbers. In addition to his track record 327.27 mph effort at Reading, Pa., he was clocked in 4.723 seconds, the second quickest quarter mile in Funny Car history, at Joliet, Ill., in a race in which he also had a time of 4.728 at just 299.13 mph.

"Jimmy Prock has our hot rod running great," Densham said. "I really think we had a shot at the 4.60s at Chicago (Joliet), if it had stayed together. We won't run those numbers here, but we might at Pomona. Don't get me wrong, Vegas is a great racetrack, but it's just going to be too hot. We'll try to take what's there and do what we can with it."

DID YOU KNOW:

For 29 years, Gary was the auto shop teacher at Gahr High School in Cerritos, Calif., and for most of that time he campaigned a Funny Car with a crew comprised of current and former students....last year, Gary became just the 14th different driver to lead the Funny Car point standings over the last 13 years. Bazemore this season became the 15th to do so ....Gary speaks to more than 60 student groups each year on behalf of the Automobile Club of Southern California, encouraging goal-setting and safe driving and detailing the number of careers available in automotive field....Gary's 20-year-old son, Steven, is licensed to compete in the Top Alcohol Funny Car class....Gary has won six tour events at six different racetracks. He'll try to make LVMS the first track on which he has doubled-up.

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