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Forever willing to experiment, Head believes he's on the right track

In four decades of nitro racing, Jim Head's philosophy hasn't changed. In his never-ending quest to build a better mousetrap, he's going to do things his way
14 Apr 2019
Kevin McKenna, NHRA National Dragster Senior Editor
Race coverage
lindberg

Jim Head is many things, but a quitter isn’t one of them. A nitro racer since the early 1980s, he’s paid his dues a thousand times over, so while he and driver Jonnie Lindberg have struggled so far this year, he’s not about to abandon ship.

“I’ll tell ya, last week in Las Vegas, I came close,” Head said. “I was pretty much over this. That race tested my patience as much as anything I can remember. It was absolutely brutal.”

Coming off a round one loss at their season debut in Gainesville, Head and Lindberg ventured west to Las Vegas for the Four-Wide event and missed the field. Their best of 4.41 missed the relatively soft 4.38 bump spot and they finished 17th out of 17 cars. That’s hardly the sort of performance one would expect from a team that went to three final rounds in their fist season together in 2017. Head still values two-time alcohol champ Lindberg as one of the best drivers in the class so what’s the issue?

“Well, we’re experimenting with a few things,” said Head. A notorious tinkerer, that’s a phrase he’s no doubt uttered a thousand times during his long career as a tuner. “We’re trying a few things and so far it’s come back to bite us in the ass. I’ve always known our problems were with the clutch, and that’s something we’re working on. We’re just not there yet. Look, I know how to make one of these cars run. It’s not that hard to buy a bunch of parts, throw them together, and go out there and be somewhere from 10th to 14th but that doesn’t interest me. I want to run fast and you don’t do that by doing what the other guy is doing. I’ve always raced that way.”

Head’s scientific approach has often yielded big dividends. The multi-stage clutch system that made transmissions obsolete in the late 1980s is just one example of the technical innovations that have come out Head’s head.

In Houston, Head and Lindberg made solid progress with their colorful Head Contractors Mustang. While they finished in the bottom half of the field with a 12th best 4.005, they made it down the track on three of four qualifying runs.

“This place [Houston Raceway Park] can also test you,” said Head. “They repaved the track and it’s great, but it’s still a little green so you have to step lightly from 660-to-900 feet. So far, it’s been pretty good though.”

Lindberg, who won just about everything there is to win with his alcohol Funny Car including a pair of Lucas Oil Series championships, share's Head's frustration but also sees the bigger picture.

"We made huge changes in the car so we knew it might take a while," said Lindberg. "This weekend, it's a start. I'm happy that we went down the track three times. That 4.00 was a decent run but it still spun the tires downtrack. We just need to get the car a little quicker. I definitely have more confidence now than I had in Gainesville or Las Vegas. I pretty much let Jim do his thing. Sometimes, I can look over his shoulder because I want to learn as much as possible but I know my place."

Lindberg is also lending his tuning expertise to Brian Hough's Top Alcohol Funny Car and they've earned the top qualifying spot in the abbreviated seven car field with a 5.488 which means a bye run in the first round of eliminations.

"I'm pretty excited for Brian," said Lindberg. "This is his race to win,"