Phoenix: Gary Densham final summary

Densham topples top car before bowing out in quarterfinals PHOENIX (Feb. 27) -- Gary Densham has had better days than Sunday's CSK NHRA Nationals, but the driver of the Racebricks Chevrolet Monte Carlo most certainly made ESPN's highlight reel...

Densham topples top car before bowing out in quarterfinals

PHOENIX (Feb. 27) -- Gary Densham has had better days than Sunday's CSK NHRA Nationals, but the driver of the Racebricks Chevrolet Monte Carlo most certainly made ESPN's highlight reel during his run to the quarterfinals.

Densham started race day at Firebird International Raceway as a decided underdog to No. 1 qualifier Tony Pedregon, who had posted one of the quickest runs in Funny Car history during qualifying -- a stunning 4.703-second pass at 325.06 mph. Against Densham's best effort of 4.920 seconds at 277.72 mph, it seemed almost a lock that Pedregon would take the victory Sunday morning.

But when the lights flashed, it was Densham recording the year's biggest upset, posting a convincing 4.922 at 271.08 mph to Pedregon's cylinder-dropping 4.987 at 267.53 mph. Adding drama to the proceedings was the fact Densham's 7,000-horsepower powerplant detonated at the 1,000-foot mark, leaving the veteran racer fighting to maintain control of a racecar that was suddenly engulfed in flames.

"We blew up about of third of our entire inventory of parts," Densham said. "The weird thing is we don't really know why because the preliminary data we looked at on the computer show us no reason whatsoever for that to have happened. We'll have to do some more extensive investigation to figure it all out because we can't have that happen again."

The immediate task confronting Densham after safely getting out of the racecar was figuring out how his newly assembled race team, which features plenty of energetic yet inexperience crewmembers, would be able to get the Racebricks Chevy back together in time for the second round, which loomed just 75 minutes away.

The question was answered before Densham made it back to his pit as several members of Scott Palmer's Top Fuel team, and Frank Pedregon and Jack Wyatt's Funny Car crews were waiting to lend a helping hand. With the additional help, reaching the second round with a competitive racecar was assured.

"This is why I'm in drag racing," Densham said of the volunteer helpers. "Driving the car is only a small part of the deal. The fact people from other teams care enough to come over and help you out when you need it is just awesome. I can't thank those guys enough. I hope we can repay the debt some day."

After the big effort, Densham had quite a run against former teammate Eric Medlen, leaving a massive .091 seconds ahead of his young friend. But Densham's car began to haze it's tires near half-track and rather than risk another engine failure, the savvy pro lifted and let Medlen by for a 4.78 to 5.99-second win.

"We simply can't afford to risk another big mess," Densham said. "I knew he was right there. I could feel him out there. So even if I had pedaled it probably wouldn't have mattered. We erred on the side of caution this time and we're happy with the overall effort."

-gs-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Frank Pedregon , Tony Pedregon , Gary Densham , Jack Wyatt , Scott Palmer , Eric Medlen