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NHRA: Head Having Finest NHRA Top Fuel Season

11 March 1998

BAYTOWN, Texas -- One of drag racing's most noted innovators is off to the best start of a career that has spanned over three decades. Columbus, Ohio driver Jim Head, runner-up in the first two NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series events of the season has his Head Racing dragster atop the Winston Top Fuel point standings for the first time ever.

Head will look to keep his momentum going at the 11th annual Pennzoil Nationals presented by HiLo/O'Reilly Auto Parts, March 19-22 at Houston Raceway Park. The $1,700,000 race is the fourth of 22 events on the NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.

Head posted his best Winston points finish ever last season, finishing ninth based on the strength of two wins and two runner-up finishes during the final seven races. He has carried that stride right into 1998 and his confidence level is soaring.

"I'm a little more serious about my racing today than I've been in my whole life," Head said. "I've got my business running really well at home, so now I have the opportunity to spend more time with the race team. I get to come in a day earlier and leave a day later, and that can make a big difference. We think it's time to do something."

In qualifying for the Mac Tools Gatornationals, Head posted a career-best 4.60 second run in his Head Racing dragster. He anticipates even better numbers at Houston Raceway Park.

"I love that place to death," Head said. "Houston is such a beautiful track and it has a world record surface. I'm really excited about the possibility of going to Houston and running my first 4.50- second pass. The car is running real good right now and maybe we'll be able to run one of those magic five numbers."

Head, who won the prestigious U.S. Nationals and Memphis, Tenn.'s Pennzoil Nationals late in the season in 1997, admits that to many longtime drag racing fans his rise may seem a little sudden. However, Head says that the formula for his success has come through many years of hard work and some friendly advice.

"I've had a good relationship with Alan Johnson for over two years and he got me sorted out," Head said. "We were kind of screwed up. But we've always been pretty good racers, regardless of what the world might think. I've got guys that have been with me for 14 years. I did an interview with a local paper the other day and they wanted to know, 'who'd you hire new, how has all this happened all of a sudden?' The truth is, the plan has finally come together."

* Gator engagement: Still riding high after winning Phoenix's ATSCO Nationals and establishing a new NHRA Top Fuel speed performance mark at 322.92 mph, McDonald's dragster driver Cory McClenathan had a very successful personal experience prior to the Mac Tools Gatornationals.

McClenathan proposed marriage to Kim Tramski at a dinner date the evening after Friday's first qualifying session. The two had been dating for more than a year.

Tramski works in timing and scoring for NHRA race control. Wedding plans are incomplete at this time.