Densham as Hot as the Weather As NHRA Tour Moves To Gateway Auto Club Driver Aims for Second Straight Victory MADISON, Ill. (June 25-27) -- Last Sunday at Englishtown, N.J., in took just five seconds for Gary Densham to run the gamut of...
Densham as Hot as the Weather As NHRA Tour Moves To Gateway
Auto Club Driver Aims for Second Straight Victory
MADISON, Ill. (June 25-27) -- Last Sunday at Englishtown, N.J., in took just five seconds for Gary Densham to run the gamut of emotions from ecstacy to agony.
The upshot is that the most recent winner in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series could find himself in a backup car when qualifying for the eighth annual Sears Craftsman Nationals begins Friday at Gateway International Raceway.
Densham upset boss and teammate John Force to win last week's K&N Filters SuperNationals, earning his first victory of the 2004 season and thrusting himself prominently back into the battle for the $400,000 POWERade Funny Car Championship.
However, at the end of a 311 mile-an-hour quarter mile, after the former high school auto shop teacher had pulled the lever that deploys twin braking parachutes, something he's done a thousand times in a 40-year career, nothing happened nothing good, anyway.
That's because the shroud apparently became entangled with the wheelie bars that extend behind the Automobile Club of Southern California Ford Mustang.
Without the benefit of his primary braking system, Densham hurtled off the end of the racetrack, through the sand pit designed to slow runaway vehicles like his own and, ultimately, into a spring-loaded catch fence.
"The 'chutes got tangled up," Densham said, "plus I probably drove it a little (too far) trying to make sure we won. Forty years of doing this, it's the first time I ever went out and played in the sand (and) it's pretty embarrassing, really.
"(Crew chief) Jimmy Prock and all the guys do such a great job. One thing I would never want to do is make more work for them and that's just what I did."
The status of the team's primary vehicle, a 7,000 horsepower hybrid that has covered the standard distance in as few as 4.723 seconds at speeds exceeding 327 mph, will depend upon whether there was stress damage to the chassis.
"Everything else is fixable," Densham said, "but if the chassis is bent, we'd probably just put the back-up car together for this weekend and deal with (the repair) later. I hate it, because we've had a really fast race car all year long.
"We should have won a lot more rounds than we have, "he said. "Everybody marvels at how much power Jimmy is making which he is. He's incredible. And yet we've turned around and lost races running 4.70s."
That's what made the last week's victory so sweet -- and significant.
With Prock turning the wrenches, Densham always has been a threat on good racetracks in cool weather. Now, though, drag racing's Odd Couple can't be counted out on sun-parched tracks like Gateway either.
"Jimmy showed a lot of restraint (last week)," Densham said. "And that can't be good news for everybody else. He just does such a fantastic job with the car. You know, I used to dread coming to St. Louis because of the heat. This time, I'm excited about it."