Seattle: Gary Densham preview

SEATTLE, Wash. (July 23-25) -- Gary Densham knows that he's running out of opportunities in his bid for the most unlikely of POWERade Championships. Trying to become the third different John Force Racing driver to wear Champion's blue...

SEATTLE, Wash. (July 23-25) -- Gary Densham knows that he's running out of opportunities in his bid for the most unlikely of POWERade Championships.

Trying to become the third different John Force Racing driver to wear Champion's blue jacket in as many seasons, Densham knows that to retain any hope of making a late season run, he has to turn things around -- and quickly.

Fourth in POWERade points just two races ago, the former high school auto shop teacher this week finds himself in sixth place entering the 17th annual CARQUEST Nationals at Pacific Raceways.

The disappointment of having been ousted in the first round at each of the last two events in the series is compounded by the realization that he has won just one round of racing in his last three trips to Seattle, all at the wheel of the Automobile Club of Southern California Ford Mustang.

If that wasn't pressure enough, the task facing Densham and crew chief Jimmy Prock is made the more daunting by the interjection of three new variables.

There's the new 2300 Goodyear Eagle rear tire that debuted last week at Denver, Colo. There's a new 660-foot concrete "launch pad" put in place at Seattle over the winter. And there's a new 85 per cent cap on the amount of nitromethane allowed in the fuel mix in both the Top Fuel and Funny Car divisions.

Nevertheless, Densham knows he can't fall much farther behind teammate and points leader John Force if he hopes to retain any realistic hope of making a stretch run for the championship.

"We can't lose contact with John and the rest of the front runners," Densham explained. "I think that coming out of the Western Swing (the three races ending with next week's Fram/Autolite Nationals at Sonoma, Calif.) or at least coming out of Indy (and the 50th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals), a guy needs to be within 100-150 points of the lead to have a real shot. Obviously, we've got some work ahead of us."

Indeed, Densham presently is 163 points off the lead, that despite an earlier victory in the K&N SuperNationals at Englishtown, N.J.

Nevertheless, despite his less-than-spectacular recent performance and the additional issues that will impact the CARQUEST Nationals, Densham is encouraged.

"You know, I ran pretty good (at Seattle) when I was running my own car (runner-up to Al Hofmann in 1995) and when you have Jimmy Prock in your corner, you'd be surprised how many (mechanical) obstacles you can overcome.

"The way I see it, every crew chief out here has a clean slate. I like Jimmy's chances of figuring it out, especially working with Austin (Coil, crew chief on Force's Castrol GTX Start Up Ford). The good thing is that we have a good piece of concrete. The way I look at it, Jimmy'll make lots of power, even at 85 per cent, and now we should have a racetrack that'll take it."

Densham, who's been driving Funny Cars since the early 1970s, has won seven times in four seasons with Prock, the Auto Club and Force Racing. He's qualified No. 1, set the national speed record and led the point standings. Barring some unforeseen circumstance, he should be the top seed for the Skoal Showdown bonus race contested in conjunction with the Nationals.

The only thing he hasn't done the last four seasons, it seems, is win the championship.

Success in Seattle could put even that goal within his reach.

- www.johnforceracing.com

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Series NHRA
Drivers Al Hofmann , John Force , Gary Densham