Phoenix: Gary Densham Saturday summary

DENSHAM IN THE SHOW AND READY FOR ROUND ONE PHOENIX -- He was a teacher for more than 30 years, so if Gary Densham is anything, he's patient. The former high school teacher is putting his classroom skills to work again and so far it's paying...

DENSHAM IN THE SHOW AND READY FOR ROUND ONE

PHOENIX -- He was a teacher for more than 30 years, so if Gary Densham is anything, he's patient. The former high school teacher is putting his classroom skills to work again and so far it's paying off.

After failing to qualify for the season opening NHRA POWERade series event two weeks ago, Densham and the rest of the Racebricks Chevy Monte Carlo team have made their way into the 16-car eliminations field at Firebird International Raceway.

Densham drove to a 4.920-second pass at 277.72 mph to earn the 16th spot of the Funny Car ladder. With a new team and a new sponsor, Densham is teaching every minute that he's not in the driver's seat.

"We have a couple of kids working on this car that had never touched a Funny Car until three weeks ago," Densham, a Bellflower, Calif., resident, said. "We're getting closer and closer everyday and I'm happy that we made the one good run so we can race on Sunday.

"The team is working hard and I think we are all learning something new everyday. It's been a challenge, certainly, but still fun working with a lot of young people that are doing their best."

Densham will meet No. 1 qualifier Tony Pedregon in the first round.

"You never know what can happen on race day, especially in the first round," Densham said. "We've seen big upsets at every event. Tony is running well right now and if they put out their best run, it's going to be tough. But we've come a long way in a short amount of time, so I would never count us out."

The Racebricks crew has had more than setup and atmospheric conditions to worry about this weekend. The crewmember in charge of the clutch, Mellisa Downing, had to leave the track early Friday afternoon to go to the hospital because of a broken finger. Densham had just three people working on the car.

"She's one of the experienced people on this team and it was a bad deal knowing she got hurt and had to leave," Densham said. "We missed her and I was trying real hard to get that clutch pack together. I hadn't done a clutch in 10 years, but we managed to make it work."

A winner of eight NHRA national events in 18 final rounds, Densham has experienced a lot of success. It also took him more than 200 events to get his first victory, so he's experienced the challenges of drag racing as well. Having a young team is nothing Densham can't handle.

"The best run of the weekend is something that we should have done during testing, but we're getting off to a late start this season," Densham said. "We weren't able to do any preseason testing so we are learning every minute of every day. I'm thrilled that a pass that should have been made during testing got us in the show.

"I think we're going to hang out on Monday and blow all the money we made getting qualified on testing. I can't wait because that's going to be fun too."

Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. Sunday. All the action can be seen on ESPN2 at 7 p.m. (ET) Sunday.

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , Gary Densham