Reading: Gary Densham preview

'Odd Couple' tries to get even at Lucas Oil Keystone Nationals. READING, Pa. For obvious reasons, Gary Densham and Jimmy Prock are considered "The Odd Couple" of the NHRA POWERade tour, the 23-event drag racing series that moves this week (Sept.

'Odd Couple' tries to get even at Lucas Oil Keystone Nationals.

READING, Pa. For obvious reasons, Gary Densham and Jimmy Prock are considered "The Odd Couple" of the NHRA POWERade tour, the 23-event drag racing series that moves this week (Sept. 13-15) to Maple Grove Raceway for the 18th running of the Lucas Oil Keystone Nationals.

Densham, the driver of the Team Castrol/Automobile Club of Southern California Ford Mustang, is a barrel-chested 55-year-old career schoolteacher who looks like a drag racer.

Prock, who tunes the 7,000 horsepower engine that sends the Castrol-backed hybrid downtrack in fewer than 4.80 seconds, is a 37-year-old career drag racer who looks like a schoolteacher.

Together, they have become the most successful mismatch since Oscar Madison and Felix Unger made millions for playwright Neil Simon.

Of course, audiences in Pennsylvania may know little of the erstwhile "dynamic duo," due in no small part to the fact that Densham is zero-for-his-career at Maple Grove, a track on which he has failed to qualify once and lost eight, count 'em eight, first round decisions.

Nevertheless, this could be the year that The Odd Couple gets even.

Coming off a strong, if not altogether satisfactory showing two weeks ago in the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis, Ind., Densham and Prock roll into Maple Grove still hoping to close ground on Castrol teammates John Force and Tony Pedregon, who presently are 1-2 in Funny Car points.

Densham, who comes to Maple Grove third in points, less than one racing round behind Pedregon, has been one of the sport's best stories in the 18 months since he signed on to drive the third of the Team Castrol Fords.

Shut out in his first 245 races on the NHRA tour, the Bellflower, Calif., resident earned a breakthrough victory last September when he beat Force in the final round of the O'Reilly Mid-South Nationals at Memphis, Tenn.

He won again a month later at Dallas and this year added victories at Las Vegas and Englishtown, N.J.

With Prock working the same kind of magic on the Ford Funny Car that he did for eight years on Joe Amato's Top Fuel dragster, Densham last February set the current NHRA national speed record of 326.87 miles per hour.

Significantly, before the start of the current campaign, Densham had lost in 147 of the 200 NHRA tour events for which he had qualified. This year, he's lost in the first round just four times in 17 events. No one other than Force (who also has lost four first round matches) has been better.

As a result, following his victory at Englishtown last May, Densham ascended to the top of the Funny Car driver standings for the first time in his career, remaining there for four events before finally relinquishing the lead to his boss and teammate.

While Densham gives Prock all the credit for the turnaround, calling his relationship with his Crew Chief "the most delightful experience I've had in my entire career," in fact, it has been a joint effort. Prock has contributed the power; Densham the experience.

The result has been a magic 18-month run for The Odd Couple, one that culminated last month in Densham and Prock being named drag racing "Persons of the Year" for 2001-2002 by the editors of Car Craft Magazine.

-www.johnforceracing.com-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , Joe Amato , Gary Densham