Were it not for skipping four of the first nine events of the season, including the first two, there’s every reason to believe that Jim Head’s Toyota Funny Car, driven by class rookie Jonnie Lindberg, would have been part of the Countdown to the Championship field last season.
They finished the regular season just a little more than three rounds outside the top 10, making for all sorts of “what-if’s” and “coulda-beens” about their impact in the playoffs.
The team admirably dug itself out of the hole of missing the first two events thanks to back-to-back runner-ups in Gainesville and Las Vegas. That lifted them into eighth place in points. They fell out of the top 10 after missing the Topeka and Epping events due to Head’s contracting company commitments and were never able to regain the spot.
This year, fans can expect to see the duo not only at the season-opening Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals presented by ProtectTheHarvest.com, but even at the upcoming Spring Training test session in Phoenix, a warmup that Head traditionally misses.
“I don’t want to make any plans or guarantees, but Jonnie wants to run them all, and I’d like to, too, though I could use a little [sponsorship] help,” said Head, who spent a month of the offseason and his winter home in the Turks & Caicos repairing damage from Hurricane Irma. “I’m excited for it; the car was running really good at the end of the year.”
The Head Inc. Toyota reached three final rounds in Lindberg’s rookie season, and the two-time Alcohol Funny Car world champ was a consensus runner-up for rookie of the year honors behind Tanner Gray.
Head wasn’t shy with his tune-up despite having a rookie wheelman, and that faith was rewarded with numerous 3-second blasts and no major mistakes.
“I always ran it hard; I wasn’t worried about him,” said Head. “He’s a natural. He didn’t get into any trouble at all. He’s really good, has a good presence in the car. If there’s anything he could work on it’s reaction time, but what tuner doesn’t want his driver to have better reaction times? He does a great job and we get along really well.”
The car was on, too, running repeatedly in the 3.80s from Indy on, with a best of 3.86, recorded at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals.
Not that Head is satisfied with that; he’s a notoriously tough grader, on himself more than anyone.
“I always expect to do good – I wouldn't go out there otherwise – but I always expect to do a lot better than I do,” he admitted. “Let’s just say that last year I wasn’t as disappointed as I normally am.
“The car showed me that it will run .83-.84, which is what it’s going to take to win any more. I’d like to say I had it all figured out, but some of it was luck more than skill. Still, it showed a lot of promise and I think we can he hit the ground running and run halfway decent right from the start.”
Head opted not to front-half the chassis this winter but will be adding a new Toyota body, color to be determined.
“I have no idea what its going to look like; I leave that all up to my painter,” he confessed. “All I told him was that I didn’t want another red car. I’m tired of red cars.”