Baytown: Toliver, Head final summary

Toliver Finishes Second at Spring Nationals BAYTOWN, Texas, April 18, 2004 - Overcoming a passel of problems and cashing in on old fashioned good luck, Jerry Toliver fought his way into the O'Reilly Spring Nationals Funny Car final at Houston ...

Toliver Finishes Second at Spring Nationals

BAYTOWN, Texas, April 18, 2004 - Overcoming a passel of problems and cashing in on old fashioned good luck, Jerry Toliver fought his way into the O'Reilly Spring Nationals Funny Car final at Houston Raceway Park.

It was in the title round where Toliver's good fortune ran into Tim Wilkerson's dominating Funny Car, Wilkerson taking the victory with a 4.896-second time at 303.30 mph. Toliver followed at 5.081 at 277.03 mph.

"I was so close to a win I could taste it," said Toliver, who was forced to use teammate Jim Head's "The Punisher" Toyota Celica body after two of his Schick Quattro Celica bodies were damaged. "I had just one more round to win . . . but when the guy in the other lane is ahead of you all the way down the track there's nothing you can do. You're helpless.

"Sometimes you wish you could stick your feet out and help the car go fast, like Fred Flintstone used to do."

An engine explosion during Saturday qualifying broke the first Celica body, causing Toliver to bring out his new Celica for the first round of eliminations. He won that race over Phil Burkhart Jr. with a 5.052 at 294.03 mph but the parachutes didn't come out and the car went into the sand and gravel at the end of the track. The impact broke part of the front end, forcing Toliver to borrow Head's Lions Gate Entertainment Celica.

Toliver qualified 13th (5.023 at 288.46) and then made quick work of Burkhart, whose car smoked the tires. In the next round, the engine in John Force's car broke and Toliver pedaled the throttle several times to a 6.174-second win. Toliver took advantage of Gary Densham's traction trouble in the semis, winning with a 5.429 to a 13.224.

"I didn't have to pedal it on the last run because he was running away from me," added Toliver.

Toliver, winner of the season-opening Winternationals in February, now has five career wins in 10 final rounds. He climbed from 10th to fifth place in POWERade Series points with 287. It's a tight fight, with only 15 points separating Toliver from No. 2 Densham.

Head, meanwhile, qualified 16th for the second consecutive time, 5.195 seconds at 263.10 mph, and met Densham in the first round. Head's car crossed the centerline on the run as Densham's car smoked the tires. Head would've won the race had he not crossed the centerline.

"Well," Head said, "at least 'The Punisher' Celica did go some rounds today, even if it wasn't me doing the driving."

Toliver and Head resume Funny Car competition at the O'Reilly Thunder Valley Nationals, April 30/May 1-2 at Bristol, Tenn.

-jtr-

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Jim Head , John Force , Gary Densham , Jerry Toliver