Columbus Nationals preview

Standout Ohio Drivers in the Spotlight at Columbus Kirkersville, Ohio -- Take a quick look at the NHRA Winston point standings this season, and you'll quickly see a few trends starting to develop. The races are tight. The title chase is ...

Standout Ohio Drivers in the Spotlight at Columbus

Kirkersville, Ohio -- Take a quick look at the NHRA Winston point standings this season, and you'll quickly see a few trends starting to develop.

The races are tight. The title chase is becoming tough to predict. And a handful of drivers from Ohio are enjoying strong seasons.

Many Ohio drivers will try to have a victorious homecoming at the 31st annual, $1,331,650 Oldsmobile Springnationals, June 8-11 at National Trail Raceway. The race is the ninth event on the 19-event, $27-million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series in 1995.

Ohio drivers are making a big impact in the Pro Stock race.

Mark Pawuk, from Bath, Ohio, climbed into fourth place after winning the Virginia is for Lovers Nationals last week at Richmond, Virginia. Pawuk also was runner-up at the Mac Tools Gatornationals in March at Gainesville, Florida, in the Summit Racing Oldsmobile Cutlass.

Pawuk has enjoyed a resurgent season with help from long- time crew chief Dave Butner, as he finished a disappointing eighth last season.

Pro Stock driver Jerry Eckman, from Newark, Ohio, also is having a career renaissance in 1995. Eckman was a strong sixth in the NHRA Winston point standings after eight races in the Pennzoil Pontiac Firebird, quite an improvement over his 14th-place finish in 1995.

Eckman was runner-up at the ATSCO Nationals in February near Phoenix and the Mid-South Nationals last month at Memphis, Tenn.

And don't be surprised if Eckman wins at Columbus. He won this event in 1990 and 192, beating fellow Newark, Ohio resident, Larry Morgan in the 1992 final.

Funny Car Driver Dean Skuza from Brecksville, Ohio, finished runner-up at the Mac Tools Gatornationals in March at Gainesville, Fla., and the Mopar Parts Nationals in late May at Englishtown, N.J. Skuza was fourth in the NHRA Winston standings in the Matco Tools Pontiac Firebird after eight national events this season.

Other prominent Ohio drivers looking for their first victories of 1995 are Top Fuel driver Jim Head, from Columbus, Pro Stock driver Troy Coughlin, from Columbus, and Larry Morgan.

Drivers from Ohio and across the country should put the track records for elapsed time and speed in jeopardy at National Trail Raceway, as new technology as the ever- increasing skill of race teams has dropped times and increased speeds all season.

Schedule -- Pro qualifying starts at 2 pm June 9 and is followed by a night-qualifying session at 7 pm June 9. Qualifying ends with sessions at noon and 4 pm June 10, with final eliminations starting at 11 am June 11. Sportsman competition starts at 8 am June 8.

Head Sticking to Basics in Quest for Top Fuel Magic

Kirkersville, Ohio -- As his struggle continues, Jim Head is resisting the urge to pull the toys off the shelf.

Head, from Columbus, Ohio, is known as one of the innovators of drag racing. He has introduced such technology as on- board computers and automatic, multi-stage clutch systems to nitromethane racing during his long career as a Top Fuel driver.

But this is no time for gadgets. Head knows he must get back to basics if he is to climb from 11th place in the NHRA Winston point standings in the Smokin' Joe's Dragster.

"We're struggling," Head said. "We've got stacks on inventions on the shelf, but we're not going to use any of them until we find ground zero.

"No, 11th place isn't cutting it. There's pressure."

A victory would vent quite a bit of steam for Head at the 31st annual $1,331,650 Oldsmobile Springnationals, June 8-11 at National Trail Raceway. The race is the ninth event o the 19-event, n $27-million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series i n 1995.

Nothing has come easily for Head and the Smokin' Joe's team this year. Head has advanced past the first round only twice in eight races and has qualified no better than 10th.

While the results have been meager, the resolve of Head's team has not waned. They know that a strong, basic set-up and a few breaks could return Head to the form that landed him in the top 10 of the NHRA Winston Funny Car Standings from 1984-87.

"You can't put any more hours in, any more test days in, than we are," Head said. "If you don't have confidence and you don't have drive, you can't do this.

"If I didn't think I could catch up, I'd go home." Although Jim Head enjoys racing close to home at the Oldsmobile Springnationals, the event is one of the toughest of the season for him.

Head must combine visits from family, friends and numerous hometown well-wishers with his already-full schedule of driving the Smokin' Joe's Dragster and fulfilling many sponsor commitments.

"On a scale of one to 100, all the other races are 99s and this is 100," Head said of the pressure of racing at National Trail Raceway. "Sure I want to win. There's a lot of pressure, and we don't need any more pressure."

The one thing that has kept Jim Head optimistic despite his season-long slump is something that money can't buy.

"If it wasn't for my wife, my young daughter and son, I wouldn't keep my sanity," Head said. "I'm very spoiled. I've got my whole family here, and if it wasn't for them, I would have lost my whole family a long time ago.

Head's wife, Tammy, and 14-month-old daughter, Suzanne Marguerite, often travel with him to NHRA national events. Head's 21-year-old son, Chad, works on the La Victoria Salsa Dragster driven by Mike Dunn.

Joe Brake Crest Motorsports URL http://www.freenet.ufl.edu/~crest/

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Jim Head , Mike Dunn , Mark Pawuk , Dean Skuza , Larry Morgan