Seattle: Gary Densham preview

Densham looking for a spark at Lucas Oil Northwest Nationals. KENT, Wash. If he has any hope of regaining the points lead from Castrol teammate John Force, Gary Densham is going to have to find a spark this week (July 26-28) when the NHRA...

Densham looking for a spark at Lucas Oil Northwest Nationals.

KENT, Wash. If he has any hope of regaining the points lead from Castrol teammate John Force, Gary Densham is going to have to find a spark this week (July 26-28) when the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series moves to Pacific Raceways for the 15th renewal of the Lucas Oil Northwest Nationals.

It was the lack of a spark that prevented the 55-year-old Californian from closing the gap between himself and his boss during last week's Mopar Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway outside Denver.

Set to face Whit Bazemore in a critical first round match, one in which he was favored, Densham was left sitting despondently in the cockpit of his national record-holding Automobile Club of Southern California Ford Mustang, its 7,000 horsepower engine silenced by a glitch in the ignition system.

It simply wouldn't start, the result of a malfunction in the crank trigger circuit, one which didn't manifest itself in the morning warmup.

The crank trigger is the device that tells the ignition system when to fire. Crew Chief Jimmy Prock initially believed that, for some reason, the cables that connect the crank trigger to the magnetos had malfunctioned simultaneously.

Backtracking to find the source problem, Prock was only able to bring the engine to life after replacing those two cables. However, once removed from the engine, both cables tested positive, leaving a perplexed Prock to pack everything up and send it back to the manufacturer.

As a result, since Densham and Prock essentially still don't know exactly what caused the problem, they can't be sure it won't recur this week.

"I've never seen that happen in my 30 years in racing," Densham said. "Of course, when I started out, we only had one magneto and eight spark plugs. Now there's two of everything. All that does is increase the number of things that can go wrong.

"The part that's the most frustrating is that there was no warning. Everything was okay during qualifying; everything was okay when we warmed it up Sunday morning."

The early elimination was particularly galling for the former auto shop teacher in that Bazemore suffered a loss of traction soon after leaving the starting line. It was a gift that Densham wasn't able to accept.

As a result, the Bellflower, Calif., resident trails Force by 61 points with 10 races remaining. That's the equivalent of three rounds of racing.

Winless in his first 245 NHRA races, Densham won for the first time last year at Memphis, Tenn. He added a second victory at Dallas, Texas before season's end and finished eighth in Funny Car points, a personal best.

This year, he's won two more times and been runner-up once. The only Funny Car driver other than Force to have led the points, he became only the fourth driver in the last 13 seasons to sit atop the standings for four consecutive races before losing the lead when Force prevailed last month at Madison, Ill.

"Our goal is to get the lead back," Densham said, "and we've got a race car that's capable of doing it. We just have to put Denver behind us and go on. It was nobody's fault. It's just one of those things that happens in racing."

Fate, after all, is one of the intangibles. It's the reason that sometimes the driver with the best car loses. It's also the reason that, on occasion, the driver who doesn't have the best car, wins. Densham is opting for a third option: the driver with the best car, wins. He thinks his Mustang, with Prock working his tune-up magic, is perfect for that role.

-www.johnforceracing.com

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Series NHRA
Drivers Whit Bazemore , John Force , Gary Densham