Gary Densham

By Darr Hawthorne
Photo by Jeff Burk

Gary Densham hasn't had the best season this year. In fact, there are rumblings that he won't be with Team Force next season. DRO's West Coast Editor, Darr Hawthorne, sat down with him to get his thoughts on the past, present and future.

DRO: How long have you been with John?

GD: This is our third year. We actually started three races into the first year.

DRO: But you go back to Australia with him and he credits you with his survival at one point.

GD: Oh yeah. Maybe so, John and I have been buddies maybe since the Australia trip back in '74-'75 and weíve always been friends. Weíve always been pals and we both love the same sport. A lot of people donít get it. John gets it. You take a look around here at the end of the night and all the other guys have gone back to their million dollar motor coaches, their Embassy Suites or their Hiltons, and you see two guys sitting out here talking to fans, and thatís John. We understand what this is all about. This is where we want to be and this is what we love.

DRO: You had a tough time here at Sonoma this weekend. Youíve had a tough time in these last four races and last night you mentioned something about the Pluger curse.

GD: Oh thatís just a standard joke. Steve Pluger and John and I have been together a long time. Steve and I were partners when they had super charged cars and Pluger helped John survive for a few years when he had nothing. Steve is one of the smartest, most crafty guys that we all know. He's a great guy that built a great racecar. Itís one of those types of deals that John started in the beginning of the year just because of a lot of history. The one year that John didnít win any races, didnít do anything, he had a car that wasnít built by Steve. He came back to the world finals after having a horrible season, got back into his old Pluger car, went out and won. Since then he had never driven anything but that. He started the beginning of this year off with a McKinney car, which is a good car, I mean weíre not putting down the car, the carís a great car. He does a great job and you saw what kind of start John had, so he started out talking about the Pluger Curse. It was just kind of funny that I started out great driving the Pluger car and then we made a change three races ago and you think the curse got me off track. Johnís now won two races in a row and qualified number one here. We went from a situation being solidly in 3rd place and setting track records at the other places we went to, to a couple of final round appearances, to winning a couple of big checks, to leaving St. Louis with the top speed new track record. Then you go to the next three races and donít qualify higher than tenth, move from third to sixth in the points, and have him run in fourth, have him run 300 - and it doesnít have anything to do with the car, but in the back of your mind youíre thinking, "Does it really?" "Is there really a curse out there, is there something we donít know about?" So, itís just a standard joke around here. Weíre working out some things and obviously there might be something slightly different with the cars, but Jimmy and the guys figure it out.

DRO: I heard from a couple of people that you might not be in a Ford, in a Mustang, at the beginning of next year.

GD: Well, thereís a lot of things, nothing can really be confirmed at this point. I think if it was up to John, John and I would probably race these cars until they had to push us out in wheelchairs to go do it. I said at the very beginning, John understands it. I understand it and itís a passion we have and itís who we are. Weíve been highly successful; obviously made a ton of money. He could quit racing any time, send all his kids to Harvard Law School, live on the Riviera in a big hacienda, and float around in a 100 foot boat, but when itís all said and done, he wants to be in the same place I do. He wants to be out here on the drag strip so I think if that decision was strictly his, thatís the way it would go. Obviously heís creating himself a great empire here but heís got a lot of people that he has to answer to. Will there be some changes for next year? Nothingís set in stone yet. Does Gary Densham still want to be out here racing? Youíre darn right he does, and somehow or another I will be.

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