Reading2: Gary Densham preview

Team Castrol Driver Could Play Spoiler Role in Lucas Keystone Nationals READING, Pa. (Oct. 4-5) -- Gary Densham rolls into Maple Grove Raceway for this week's resumption of the 19th annual Lucas Oil Keystone Nationals on a high speed...

Team Castrol Driver Could Play Spoiler Role in Lucas Keystone Nationals

READING, Pa. (Oct. 4-5) -- Gary Densham rolls into Maple Grove Raceway for this week's resumption of the 19th annual Lucas Oil Keystone Nationals on a high speed highway.

In his final season with John Force Racing, the former high school auto shop teacher has driven the Jimmy Prock-prepared Team Castrol/Automobile Club of Southern California Ford Mustang to two of the five quickest quarter miles in Funny Car drag racing history.

Nevertheless, while he was clocked in 4.723 seconds in the first round of last week's CARQUEST Nationals at Joliet, Ill., a time eclipsed only by boss and teammate John Force and his national record-setting 4.721, Densham would prefer, like a fisherman, to talk about the "one that got away."

In Densham's case, that would have been a 4.728 second qualifying run the Bellflower, Calif., resident said was better than the 4.723 until the 1,100 foot mark, when the 7,000 horsepower engine began to misfire.

"I didn't want to shut it off," Densham said. "I knew that run was once-in-a-lifetime. The fuse was just a little too short, I guess. I could've been the first guy in the 60s (the first to break the 4.70 second barrier). I guess we'll just have to do it at Reading."

Indeed, Densham's incremental times on the 4.728 second effort were the quickest in history at 330 (2.262 seconds), 660 (3.224 seconds) and 1,000 feet (4.020 seconds). His speed was the fastest ever at half track (264.18 miles per hour) but a finish line speed of "only" 299.13 miles per hour (27 mph off his career best) indicated the deceleration that cost him a piece of history.

Still, the performance established the journeyman driver as one of those who could play a role in determining who will win the $400,000 POWERade championship teammate Tony Pedregon or Dodge rival Whit Bazemore.

Following a four-race swoon during which he followed three consecutive first round losses with a DNQ at the FRAM/Autolite Nationals at Sonoma, Calif., a resurgent Densham has won once (at Brainerd, Minn.) and been in contention in every event.

Fourth in the current point standings, the same position in which he finished the 2002 campaign, the 56-year-old Californian knows that, given favorable weather conditions, a 4.60 isn't out of the question at either of the four tracks that will determine the championship.

"(If the conditions are favorable), we'll definitely go for it," Densham said. "What've we got to lose? Besides, if we set the (national) record, that's 20 (bonus) points that Bazemore isn't going to get, which would help Tony. That could be a big deal by the time we get to Pomona (for the season-ending Auto Club Finals, Nov. 6-9)."

A six-time tour winner, Densham briefly led the point standings earlier this season after winning the Mac Tools Gatornationals at Gainesville, Fla.

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-www.johnforceracing.com

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , Whit Bazemore , John Force , Gary Densham