When Conrad Kalitta speaks you would be wise to listen.
When he provides advice, it’s in your best interest to follow.
A sage bit of counsel back in March to his Funny Car crew chiefs is making them look good in the dog days of summer.
Driver Jeff Arend remembers the day Kalitta met with Jon Oberhofer and Nicky Boninfante along with newly signed Alexis Dejoria crew chief Del Worsham.
Kalitta’s desire was to have both his Funny Car, driven by Jeff Arend, and the Patron-sponsored flopper of DeJoria on the same page and with two finals in the last three races, it’s clear they are there.
“We started the year with the intention of making both cars identical,” explained Arend. “We went to testing and made both cars identical but they just didn’t react the same. We went to Pomona and tried it. After the first session, we decided to put it back the way we ran it last year. We did and the car ran well in Pomona and Phoenix. Gainesville we did okay.”
The NHRA Summit Nationals in Las Vegas was the first race of the Kalitta order.
“Low and behold, we ran a 4.31 and with a few adjustments to Alexis’ car, she ran a 4.29,” Arend said. “Then we went a .27. We’ve been learning a lot ever since between the two cars.”
Arend understands no matter how much the cars are intended to be alike, they will always be different.
“The more runs we make, the more we know he to make adjustments for the differences,” Arend said. “You get a better baseline and it improves more with each outing.”
Arend knew when the team decided to bring in Worsham, who was the NHRA Top Fuel series champion in 2011, the learning curve wouldn’t be as extended as if it could have been.
Simply put, even though Worsham hadn’t officially worked with Oberhofer and Boninfante before, there was chemistry in a friendship already in place.
“We had some really good stuff on our car that Jon O. and Nicky had run before,” said Arend. “Del had some ideas and in putting them together came up with a good package.”
How well has the meshing of ideas been?
“At one time I’d say our car was going down the track 40-percent of the time and maybe a tenth of a second off of the low qualifier,” Arend said. “I’d say now we are at about 70-percent and within a hundredth or so of the leaders, regardless of the conditions.
“Our car has come a long way in a short amount of time. Having two cars has helped that. I always use a golf analogy which says if I have an eight-foot putt, I have a 50-percent chance of making it. Give me two or three chances from the same spot and with more than one car, we are going to make it. We can now make it because of the data provided by the one that didn’t make it.”
The gelling comes as no surprise to Arend, who drove for Worsham when Worsham fielded a CSK-sponsored fuel Funny Car team.
“He’s probably one of my best friends,” Arend said. “I respect him and he’s a very smart guy. Even when he was on another team, Del still talked with Jon O and Nicky. Del was always able to get a lot out of what he had.”
The biggest challenge, Arend believes, might be in adjusting to the fact he and his crew are no longer a lone wolf in the field. Along with DeJoria, they are now officially a two-car team.
“Having two cars now makes it a lot easier if you have the right personnel in place,” Arend said. “We have the right leadership in place with Connie Kalitta.”
And this is why when Connie speaks Arend, and everyone, listens.
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