This most definitely will not be nitro Funny Car driver Gary Densham’s first rodeo when he competes at the Denso Spark Plugs Four-Wide Nationals in Las Vegas April 5-7.
Densham made his NHRA debut at the World Finals in Ontario, Calif., in 1979.
The retired California school teacher is still addicted to the racing drug and continues to campaign on a limited schedule.
Densham made his 2019 season debut at the season-opening Winternationals in Pomona, Calif., in Feb. 8-11. He qualified No. 12 and lost to Ron Capps in round one, which was Densham’s 398th round one appearance.
“It’s way too much work and way too much money and all the above, but unfortunately we have the greatest people and the most wonderful fans and all the people out there are just so much fun to hang around with I can’t help myself,” said Densham when asked what keeps him racing after all these years. “Charley (Adbouch) also helps a little bit at every race and we couldn’t do it without him that’s for sure.”
Charley D. Adbouch is the President of Midwest Factory Finishes in Sioux Falls, S.D.
Densham has eight NHRA national event wins in nitro Funny Car on his resume, the last coming in when he beat Cruz Pedregon in 2004 at the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, Ind., while driving for John Force Racing. He has appeared in 21 final rounds.
At that event, Densham earned the $50,000 “double-up” bonus by also winning the NHRA Showdown.
Densham’s last appearance in the final round came in 2014 in Seattle when he lost to John Force.
“It’s like everything else, you would like to run a whole heck of a lot more, but the work load and the money is too extreme,” Densham said. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m the luckiest guy in the world that I have such great people out at the race track. Of my crew that goes to all the race that I go to, and I wouldn’t go without them, I have about 80 percent of the people who worked for me when I raced full time. It amazes me how they can be off four or five months and come out and they have not seen the car and life is good and they know exactly what they are doing, and they don’t make mistakes and they are fast, and they are as good as anybody in the pits and life is good. My biggest problem is my crew guys live all over the country like Seattle and Reno (Nev.), which was fine when were fulltime because we were just on the road and since we quit racing (fulltime) they went out and got real jobs and houses, and wives, and kids. I keep trying to tell them that responsible adult crap is ruining my racing program.
They have a lot of other things going on in their lives, so 99 percent of getting everything ready to go relies on me and it is a lot of work. That becomes a little problem along the way, and it makes it rough to do much more than we do right now along with being able to find the cash to do it.”
Last year at the spring race in Las Vegas was the first time Densham competed in the Four-Wide format.
“It’s cool and it’s neat and maybe it is just me because it is almost more than I can grasp,” Densham said of Four-Wide racing. “Racing it is cool but watching it I’m not sure. It’s sensory overload, there’s no doubt. I have a hard time trying to track two cars who is winning at 1,000 feet. Unfortunately, we don’t have the car counts that we used to and all that, which makes it bad because by time you get to the end of qualifying you don’t have full quads to go up there and qualify.”
After Vegas, Densham schedule isn’t finalized, but he’s considering racing at Sonoma, Calif., (July 26-28), Seattle (Aug. 2-4), Brainerd, Minn. (Aug. 15-18), Las Vegas (Oct. 31-Nov. 3) and Pomona, Calif. (Nov. 14-17).
“I can’t afford them all, so which ones do we do?” Denshman said. “Last year, everybody said to me that I didn’t run the World Finals (in Pomona) and that was the first time I didn’t run the World Finals in 40 years. The reason I didn’t is because three of my people could not come. I’m not going to run my car if I haven’t got the people who I trust.”
As for Vegas next weekend, Densham is taking a realistic approach.
“We won first round there last year, so we would like to do better than that,” he said. “I have never gone to bed at night dreaming about making $5 from the races or $10 or $100 from the races or $100,000. It has always been how fast is the car going to go? What’s the E.T. slip going to say? Whose a** am I going to be able to kick? And, do I get to hold the trophy and kiss the girl at the end of the day? I know the expectations that we can’t go out and stand to-to-toe with John Force and Schumacher and Kalitta and those guys and exchange blows because will just get beat up. Their money is going to out do us for sure. If you go out and give them a bloody nose every once and awhile and embarrass them, well that’s a win isn’t it? We come out there with the expectations that we are going to run every qualifying run. We are going to run the best we possibly can, and we are going to go racing. It is that simple. Our chances of winning, pretty slim, I admit it, especially in today’s market. It used to be better. We made quite a few final rounds and won some races, all that stuff in the past. But it was a scenario once again that you weren’t racing all the team cars. You could be as good as somebody and they could make more mistakes than you. It doesn’t happen as much the way it is now.”
— Competition Plus (@competitionplus) January 4, 2019