Phoenix: Jim Head preview

Jim Head Plans to Go from Spectator to Racer at Firebird Raceway His Lions Gate Entertainment Toyota Celica Is Ready for Checkers Schuck's Kragen Nationals CHANDLER, Ariz., March 3, 2004 - After spending the first weekend of the NHRA season as a...

Jim Head Plans to Go from Spectator to Racer at Firebird Raceway
His Lions Gate Entertainment Toyota Celica Is Ready for Checkers Schuck's Kragen Nationals

CHANDLER, Ariz., March 3, 2004 - After spending the first weekend of the NHRA season as a spectator and helper of teammate Jerry Toliver, Jim Head is anxious to jump into the Funny Car battles at Firebird Raceway, Friday through Sunday.

Head's Lions Gate Entertainment Toyota Celica didn't make the 16-car Winternationals line-up Sunday at Pomona, Calif., so he lent an additional hand when necessary in the team's pit area as Toliver drove his way to a surprising race victory.

One reason Head is eager to get back into a competitive mode is because his car and Toliver's Schick Quattro Toyota Celica are to be cloned. Basically, they will run the same combinations, and there's no questioning Toliver's winning tune-up. On his semifinal victory over Del Worsham, Toliver posted an elapsed time of 4.738 seconds - the quickest of the event - and the race's fastest speed, 328.22 mph, also the fourth-fastest in history.

"That's just Alan Johnson Performance Engineering preparation and Toyota Celica aerodynamics," said Head, a civil engineer when he's away from the racetracks. "I'm anxious to get an e.t. (elapsed time) slip like that."

Although his best time of 5.364 seconds was not quick enough to put him in the starting line-up at Pomona, Head says he and his team learned a lot, enough that it should make him competitive when Checkers Schuck's Kragen Nationals qualifying begins Friday afternoon.

"This is a team effort; it truly is," he commented. "Keith (Adams, Toliver's crew chief) and I talk all the time. We know we'll learn twice as fast, get twice as much data, by tuning the cars the same."

Head has already made a crucial change to his Celica body. The burst panel - it absorbs some of the initial shock of an engine explosion and helps prevent serious damage to the carbon fiber bodies - wasn't in the proper place on the first few Toyota bodies because the team's new superchargers are built differently.

The burst panel was in front of the engine and supercharger because that's where the force was directed by the other supercharger. The superchargers they now use direct the force out each side and the result was both Celica bodies were damaged at Pomona. They were repaired, and it's quite unlikely that will happen again.

"My car now has burst panels on either side of the engine," Head said. "That's a step in the right direction."

Another step should come when Head qualifies for his first POWERade Series Funny Car race in 15 years. He believes it will be this weekend at Firebird Raceway.

Qualifying sessions are scheduled Friday at 3:30 and 6:30 p.m. Saturday's times are 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. Eliminations begin Sunday at 11 a.m.

-jh-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jim Head , Jerry Toliver