NHRA: Densham Desires Texas Victory Dance
21 October 1998DALLAS - Regardless of how the National Hot Rod Association's season ends, 1998 will be a memorable year for NEC/AAA Auto Club Funny Car driver Gary Densham. It will forever be remembered as the year Densham made the giant step from an under-funded, middle-of-the-pack driver to a true contender in the sport's wildest division.
Thanks to major sponsorship agreements with NEC Communications and AAA Auto Club, Densham has taken his 33 years of drag racing experience up a notch or two this season. Gone are the days of conservative driving that often left Densham in the perilous bottom half of the qualifying ladder. Nowadays the 51-year-old high school teacher aggressively challenges for every event title. In the 17 events that Densham has qualified for this year, he has been in the top half of the field on seven occasions.
"The corporate backing has really lifted us," Densham said. "It used to be that we had to take it easy because if we wrecked the car, we'd be out until it was fixed. Now we have an entire spare car in the attic of the transporter. That has allowed us to go-for-it on race day, which in turn has helped us be more competitive overall."
Adjusting to contender status has taken some time for Densham. He has amassed just four elimination round wins this year despite his improved qualifying performances. "We've had a lot of races where we have run against other guys who are having their best run of their lives against us," Densham said. "It's been frustrating but we all know that if we keep after it, eventually the odds will turn in our favor and we'll be the ones winning the races."
Densham and crew are hoping a change in luck will occur in their sponsor's backyard at the 13th annual Revell Nationals at the Texas Motorplex. "NEC has a lot of folks working out of Dallas as does AAA of Texas," Densham said. "It would mean so much to us if we could have a good showing for them in Ennis. Not only would it save a sub-standard year this season but it would really get us ready for a super 1999 season.
"The good news is the car is in the best shape it's been all season. I believe we have our 300-mph, four-second Hot Rod back. Plus, the weather is cooling and the Motorplex is the best track on the circuit. The traction there is unbelievable and we plan on taking full advantage of it. We can't win the championship this year but nothing can stop us from winning the last three races. We're going to do our best to accomplish that. By the end of this year I want our sponsors to be glad they decided to back us."