Pomona II: Gary Densham preview

POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 6-9) -- In his three seasons with John Force Racing, Gary Densham has achieved virtually all of his career goals, goals that at one point in his 30-year drag racing career seemed beyond his reach. He's won six NHRA tour ...

POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 6-9) -- In his three seasons with John Force Racing, Gary Densham has achieved virtually all of his career goals, goals that at one point in his 30-year drag racing career seemed beyond his reach.

He's won six NHRA tour events, claimed five Budweiser No. 1 qualifier bonuses, held the national speed record for the Funny Car class, set track records for both quarter mile time and speed, been honored as the sport's Co-Person of the Year (in 2002, along with Crew Chief Jimmy Prock) and led the POWERade point standings twice.

That's not too shabby for a former high school auto shop teacher who went 245 races before winning for the first time at Memphis, Tenn., in 2001.

However, as the 2003 season and his stint as driver of the Team Castrol/Automobile Club of Southern California Ford Mustang race to a close this week at Pomona Raceway, the 56-year-old former auto shop teacher still has one itch he hasn't been able to scratch.

While he's won races in Nevada, Florida, Minnesota, New Jersey, Texas and Tennessee, he's never won in his home state (California), never won on his home track (Pomona Raceway), and never won his sponsor's titled event (the Auto Club World Finals).

He gets another chance to end that drought this week in his final appearance in the 39th renewal of the Auto Club World Finals.

Owner of the second quickest quarter mile time in Funny Car drag racing history at 4.723 seconds, Densham has had a dominant race car over the last quarter of the season. In addition to the 4.723, over the last six weeks, he also has driven the blue-and-white Mustang to times of 4.728, 4.749 and 4.752 seconds and set a Ford speed record when he was clocked at 327.27 mph last month at Reading, Pa.

However, Densham can't help but talk about the "one that got away."J That was the 4.728 second clocking he earned at Joliet, Ill. Although it was only his second best of the weekend, Densham still believes that it would have been the first sub-4.70 second quarter mile had he been able to maintain control of the 7,000 horsepower hybrid as it neared the finish line.

Instead, he had to abort the run, slowing to just 299.13 mph because the car was on the verge of crossing the centerline, an infraction that would have voided the run.

"We were this close," Densham said, indicating an inch or so with his thumb and forefinger. "I really believe we could have run in the 4.60s but it started to drift and I couldn't muscle it back."

Locked into fourth place in POWERade points for the second consecutive season, the Bellflower, Calif., resident is hopeful he'll have at least one more opportunity to chase the 4.60s this weekend. The track record holder for speed at 326.87 mph, Densham believes conditions will be favorable.

"I understand it's supposed to be cool, in the 60s," he said. "If it is, I'm sure Jimmy will load it up to go after the record."

"Tony (Castrol SYNTEC teammate Tony Pedregon) won the championship and John beat me for third (place in points)," Densham said, "but if we could get that record, if we could be the first in the .60s, that'd be all good."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , John Force , Gary Densham