After a successful introduction to nitro racing last year in the Nostalgia Funny Car ranks, Chad Head will take over the controls of his father Jim’s Funny Car in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series in 2013.
Additionally, the younger Head, 39, who recently resigned his position as director of racing operations at Al-Anabi Racing to pursue this opportunity, will assume a partnership role in his father’s Columbus-based construction company, Head Inc., an airport paving contractor specializing in military work.
“I’m more excited about this than anything in my life,” said Jim, a veteran of more than 30 years in the sport, including in Top Fuel, Funny Car, and Top Alcohol Dragster, and a two-time U.S. Nationals champion. “I don’t feel that for the last 10 years I’ve done justice to my Funny Car racing. Driving detracts from tuning, and tuning detracts from driving. I got away with it for a lot of years before the cars became as complicated and difficult to tune as they are today. Now it’s more than I can handle. I won’t let my ego get in the way. It’s time. Now I’ll get to stand on the starting line and watch my car go down the track with a competent driver that’s also my best friend.”
“This move is based on being partners with my dad in the family business,” Chad said. “That’s 100 percent my motivation, to move from Alan Johnson to Head Inc.; racing is the bonus. To be able to be involved with my dad in the business is first, but being given the keys to the race team as well leaves me speechless.”
Father and son have been living almost separately in the same world for more than 20 years. Although son has worked on his father’s racing teams on occasions, he has also spent time with many teams, including those of Rance McDaniel/Dan Olson, Darrell Gwynn, and John Force, and worked for NHRA and IRL before joining the Al-Anabi team. Although they saw each other on a regular basis the last decade, it was never how it is now or is going to be.
Jim Head, right, and longtime crew chief Johnny Davis are among the most successful privateer racers in the sport. Head has scored six wins -- three each in Top Fuel and Funny Car -- in 18 final rounds. He's a two-time U.S. Nationals champ and one of the few to have won it in both nitro classes.
“I always hoped this is where we’d end up, and now the timing is finally right,” said Chad. “We’ve both grown up, and it’s taken this long to be able to communicate well with one another. I’m not saying we’re always on the same page, but it’s taken me 39 years to at least agree to disagree on things and talk about things without yelling and screaming. I’m more proud of that than anything. There are a lot of people who don’t have their father around, and I’m going to take this great opportunity to enjoy being with mine. It’s about way more than the racing; it’s about being able to work with him and continue the family business and family race team.”
The team plans to do preseason testing in Florida, with the goal of a debut in Gainesville, the third event of the 2013 season, but that will all be based on Chad's progress.
“I’m really not putting an emphasis on timetables; I’m putting it on getting comfortable in the car and being safe,” said Chad. “I don’t want to put any pressure on myself. I have a lot of respect for fuel cars. If I’m not ready, I’ll be the first guy to admit it. I want to be safe, and I want the people around me to be safe. My goal is to be safe, No. 1. No. 2, it’s to have fun with my friends and family. Do I want to win a race? Absolutely. Do I want to qualify at every race? Absolutely. But it’s more important for me to be safe and comfortable and to have fun with my family and friends.”
Father, too, expressed that they’re not just racing into this blindly despite the impressive licensing runs that Chad made in the car after the fall Las Vegas event.
“Don’t get me or him wrong: We’ve got a long way to go before he’s an event winner, but that’s just laps, and there’s only one way to get them -- you’ve got to start making them,” said Jim. “He’s already proven to me that he can be very competent as a driver. He proved that in the nostalgia car, and I was really quite shocked at how easily he slid into the big car, but these cars are a whole other level.”
Chad impressed almost immediately in the nostalgia ranks, driving a replica of his dad’s 1984 Indy-winning Daytona, and last year won the prestigious March Meet, not that he claims a lot of credit for it.
“It’s not my ability; it’s the car that I was given the opportunity to drive; it was top-notch,” he said. “The car went down the track 31 times in a row, and I don’t know of too many new drivers who were able to go down the track that many times in a row to get the experience that I did. That goes back to Del Worsham, Johnny Davis, and Jim Head and all of the guys on the crew that put it together.
“I’ve still got a lot to learn in nitro racing and the construction business, but I’m ready to learn. My dad has two great teams -- a great office staff and a great race team – and I can’t wait to get started.
“I have enjoyed my time at Al-Anabi Racing, and I thank Sheikh Khalid and Alan Johnson for giving me this opportunity. When I was working with the IRL in 2008 and wanted to get back into NHRA, Alan is the one who gave me the chance, and I’ll always appreciate what he has done for me. I thank Sheikh Khalid for creating the Al-Anabi team so that Alan had a reason to bring me back. I have really enjoyed working with everyone on the Al-Anabi team, including our crew chiefs and all of our drivers, Del Worsham, Khalid alBalooshi, Shawn Langdon, and Larry Dixon. There has always been a special bond between the Head and Johnson families; I’ll always cherish that relationship, and I look forward to it continuing in the future."