Pomona: Jim Head preview

Jim Head Ready for Funny Car Challenge Jim Head's New Challenge: Driving Lions Gate Entertainment Toyota Celica Funny Car POMONA, Calif., Feb. 19, 2004 -If Jim Head were to choose a theme song for his drag racing career, the obvious choice would...

Jim Head Ready for Funny Car Challenge
Jim Head's New Challenge: Driving Lions Gate Entertainment Toyota Celica Funny Car

POMONA, Calif., Feb. 19, 2004 -If Jim Head were to choose a theme song for his drag racing career, the obvious choice would be "My Way."

And few, if any, would argue.

From the time he first began driving a beat-up 1956 Chevrolet around the family property in the Columbus, Ohio, area, Head was smitten with the sport. It developed into a serious love affair; one that continues today.

He'll be driving the Lions Gate Entertainment Toyota Celica Funny Car, teaming with Jerry Toliver, and attempting to make the 16-car field at the NHRA POWERade Series 2004 opener, the K&N Filters Winternationals, today through Sunday, at Pomona Raceway. It marks Head's return to the carbon fiber-bodied machines and their 7,000 horsepower engines after a 15-year absence, a move Head is enjoying.

"I'm different from most of the drivers out here because the mechanical side of racing is why I race," said the inquisitive, innovative Head. "Once I started racing I stayed out because the challenge is to make the car go quick and fast. Driving the dragster was somewhat of a chore, but in the transition to Funny Car, I found it was way, way, way more exciting. It's a huge challenge now to actually do what was old hat before, which was stage the car and get it down the track. This is kind of like a new challenge."

One he relishes.

"It's like when I was 50, I threw away my skis and got a new snowboard," Head recalled. "Learning it was hard, but it's cool, and now I have a snowboard-like racecar and I'm back enjoying the thrill of driving a Funny Car."

Head tested at Las Vegas and Firebird Raceway in Phoenix so he could qualify for his Funny Car license. He says he's "optimistic about our chances for this race. I have an awful lot of racing experience. The car makes a lot of power.

"What would I like to do at Pomona?" he asks. "Qualify No. 1 and win the race, what can I say? We have what it takes to be competitive. The car is running hard and I'm comfortable in it."

Head, as he always has, will tune the car. "I do everything as the driver-tuner," said. "There's only one way to find out who has the better hot rod, and that's to race."

Determined to drive the quickest and fastest car, Head has always been "deep into development" of new parts. He's spent many hours, days and weeks working on projects to shave milliseconds off his quarter-mile elapsed times.

"All those widgets and gadgets on these cars - and there are millions of them - came from somewhere, and 90 percent came from me," Head pointed out. "My guys and I did it. We built everything in-house as we were inventing the stuff.

"I love challenges, whether it's trying to make my car faster or whether it's trying to keep it between the lines."

The challenges continue at Pomona Raceway when qualifying gets underway Thursday and Friday at 3 p.m. and concludes Saturday with noon and 3 p.m. sessions. Eliminations Sunday begin at 11 a.m.

Head didn't compete in NHRA events in 2000 and 2001, but raced 10 times in 2002 and 16 times last year. He has six victories in 15 final rounds. He's run 316 races in a career that began in 1980 in Top Fuel. He switched to Funny Car from 1984 through 1988. His first three race wins came in Funny Car, with the first at the 1984 U.S. Nationals. He won twice the next year, at Baton Rouge, La., and Brainerd, Minn. Dragster wins came a Topeka (1996), Memphis and Indianapolis (1997). His last final-round appearance was at Memphis in 1999.

Head has six top 10 finishes - sixth in 1984, ninth in 1985, 1987 and 1997, and eighth in 1986 and 1998.

He is president of Head Inc., a company that builds concrete runways for the military.

A Closer Look at Jim Head . . . Residence: Galena, Ohio
Hometown: Columbus, Ohio
Date of birth: Sept. 5, 1948
Crew chief: John Davis
Career wins/finals rounds: 6/15 (3/8 FC, 3/7 TF)
Best points finish: 6th (1984 FC)
Career-best elapsed time: 4.523 seconds (Chicago 2, 2003)
Career-best speed: 331.20 mph (Chicago 2, 2003)

-jls-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jim Head , John Davis , Jerry Toliver