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NHRA: 300-mph car Rides Keep School Teacher Busy

28 October 1998

HOUSTON - If only he taught Drivers Ed instead.

High school auto shop teacher Gary Densham, who spends his weekends behind the wheel of the NEC/AAA Auto Club Nitro Funny Car, readily admits that he has an affinity for going fast. In fact, he plans on proving that point on several occasions over the course of the four-day National Hot Rod Association race scheduled for Thursday through Sunday at Houston Raceway Park. Densham, along with the rest of the NHRA pros, will be battling for the title of the Second Annual Matco Tools Supernationals, the 21st of 22 events on the world's fastest auto racing circuit.

To say that the 33-year drag racing veteran is excited about racing at the oxygen-rich, sea-level track in the Houston suburb of Baytown is an understatement. After achieving a career-best top speed of 307.49 mph during a Saturday run at the NHRA's last event in Dallas, Densham is convinced his car is quicker now than it's ever been before.

"I said before the Dallas race that I thought we had our 300-mph, four-second hot rod back and I was right," Densham said. "The 307-mph lap was indicative of how I think our car will run from this point forward. I feel like a little kid. I can't wait to hit the track again. If we were able to reset our top speed mark in Dallas, we should be able to shatter it in Houston. Traditionally, Houston has always been a great place to go fast. Plus, we've always had a lot of good luck down there. I'd like to win a few rounds this weekend. In fact, I'd like to win four rounds this weekend." (It takes four rounds to win an event outright.)

Densham has qualified for 18 events this year and has placed his car in the top half of the field on seven occasions. Earlier this season in Pomona, Calif., Densham blistered the strip with an amazing 4.991-second pass at 305.49 mph to join the likes of John Force, Ron Capps, Cruz Pedregon and Mark Oswald as one of only 16 Funny Car drivers that have covered the strip in less than five seconds. The pass automatically made Densham a member of the elite Castrol 4-Second Club.

"We're not contending for the Winston points championship this year but I checked the rule book and I'm still eligible to win these last two races," Densham said. "So that's exactly what we're going to try and do. I've looked around and I know that nobody works as hard as my crew does. They deserve a win. Personally, I have been around racing long enough to know that you have down times as well as good times. I'm used to it. But a lot of the guys on my crew are young and anxious to feel what it's like to be in the Victory Circle."