Championship Drag Racing

Mac Tools NHRA Gatornationals
Gainesville, Fla.
(March 18-21)

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Jim Head
Lions Gate
Toyota Celica
Funny Car


Head hopes natural progression puts him in Gatornationals

Gainesville, pre-race: Lately, when Jim Head thinks about drag racing - and that's quite often - he recalls his last run.

It wasn't perfect, but it was his best in what has thus far been a perplexing return to NHRA Funny Car competition.

Head's Lions Gate Entertainment Toyota Celica roared down the Firebird Raceway track in Phoenix on March 6. It stopped the clocks at 4.997 seconds - the Galena, Ohio, driver's best in the full-bodied racing machines. It wasn't, however, good enough to put him into the starting line-up. But it did portend a promising future.

"I finally felt comfortable in the racecar on that last pass at Phoenix," said Head, who wound up missing the show by a skimpy one-thousandth of a second. "I've been anxious to get back in the car since that run. This is the sport of 'one more pass. I know we'll get it right on the next one.'"

He'll see if that's true because his next one, as it turns out, will be Friday when qualifying begins for the Mac Tools Gatornationals, March 19-21, at Gainesville Raceway.

"I think we'll be in a lot better shape this weekend because of that last run," Head said. "We'd like to run good Friday and be able to tweak the car on Saturday to get it ready for Sunday's eliminations. It's tough on the team when you aren't in the field going into the last qualifying run.

"I do like racing at Gainesville. I've always liked the track and always like coming down to the race. It used to be my first race of the season quite awhile ago. Back then we couldn't wait to pack up the car and get out of the cold Columbus weather."

Making the transition from Top Fuel to Funny Car this year has been difficult for Head, but he isn't complaining. "Funny Car racing is tough," he said, "but I have no regrets. I'm pleased to be in the category. Now I want to be in the top half of the field."

Head points to the extended time it took he and his crew to get the new Toyota Celica ready to hit the track as one of the drawbacks. He made only a few starting-line squirts in preseason testing at Las Vegas, and then had barely made it down a very tricky track while testing at Phoenix.

"Had we had our complement of test runs at Las Vegas, I believe we would've been ready to race at the Winternationals and at Phoenix. I believe we'll be ready to race here," he said.

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