JIM OBERHOFER STEPS DOWN AS KALITTA GM; WILL REMAIN CREW CHIEF
Jim Oberhofer knew something needed to change in his burning-the-candle-at-both-ends lifestyle. Today, he confirmed with CompetitionPlus.com that he's stepping away from his extensive role as General Manager of Kalitta Motorsports and will focus solely on his original role with the Michigan-based team as crew chief for the Mac Tools dragster driven by Doug Kalitta.
"It’s tough because I’ve never been somebody to say, ‘I can’t do something," Oberhofer admitted. "Or, ‘no.
"But I realize I can’t do all this, and if I’m going to truly be a positive part of the Kalitta team, the best way I be a positive part of that team is by making Doug’s car into a winner, and hopefully, eventually a champion."
Oberhofer has been with Kalitta Motorsports for over three decades before ascending to the role of General Manager of what was a two-dragster team and then expanded into three dragsters and two Funny Cars, and increased to a sixth car briefly.
"In 2000, we were one car, and we had a few employees and a couple of people working in the shop, and it was around ten people," Oberhofer said. "It was fun; it was manageable, and we did good back then. As the team’s grown over the years, the whole organization has grown.
"You go from one car to two cars, two cars to three cars, three to four, and then you add a CNC shop in the mix, and a chassis shop into the mix, a repair shop, and you’ve got marketing people, and PR people, and social media people. Pretty soon you’ve got almost 80 employees."
In the midst of the positive and healthy growth, Oberhofer saw an overwhelming challenge for his focus.
"I started finding myself every day with less and less time," Oberhofer said. "Less time to focus on trying to be a good crew chief. I wanted those opportunities because I feel that I can do a good job and I feel that I’m a good enough crew chief that we could win races, and with Troy Fasching and the guys we put together on the Mac Tools team I feel we should do better than what we do. And that takes time.
"I’ve been thinking about this for the last two years, and I’ve been thinking that, you know, I need to do one or the other."
The situation took a challenging path, when back in October during the NHRA Nationals in Las Vegas, Oberhofer was rushed into emergency surgery where his gal bladder was removed.
"The doctors were like, ‘You’re pretty lucky,'" Oberhofer explained. "If I would have been just a little bit more stubborn than what I normally am, it could have taken a turn for the worse for me. And that really opened my eyes because, my health means something to me. My well being means something to me. Taking on everything that I’ve taken on has taken its toll on me.
"Eighteen years of being the figure head for Connie over here at Kalitta Motorsports, I mean there’s been a lot of great times, there’s been up and downs, and everything in between. But its taken it’s toll on me. And in the middle of all that, we lost Scott, I lost my wife."
And this was the tip of the iceberg in personal challenges.
"My kid went from being almost five years old," Oberhofer said. "Now she’s 22. I missed a lot of things with that. I want to live life a little bit, I want to enjoy racing.
"I owe everything I am to Connie and the Kalitta family because they have given me so many great opportunities over the years, and Connie’s allowed me to drive his vision that he has with racing and everything. And it’s been cool."
Oberhofer believes the Kalitta team will be better than ever because the right people are in place for long-term success.
"They’re an amazing group of people, and they do a great job, and, I think we’re going to be just fine," Oberhofer said. "I think we’re probably going to be better as we move forward."
Oberhofer's former position will now be filled by Rachel Delago, a longtime and integral member of the team.
"She’s always taken on things, and she’s going to handle a lot of the duties that I would handle," Oberhofer said. "She’s going to take a tremendous amount off my shoulders and make things better. And having Chad Head here as well too, well, he was much needed help toward the end of the year. So, we know that as an organization for us to become better, we just have to make adjustments, make changes.
"You can’t have tunnel vision and just do the same old, same old all the time. We weren’t happy with how the Kalitta team performed last year. Four total race wins is unacceptable. That’s not what we’re about. We’re not out here to play second fiddle to Schumacher, Force, Torrence, anybody like that.
"We want to kick their ass just as much as they want to kick our ass. And in the case of the Mac Tools car, you’re not going to do that with a crew chief that is not one hundred percent focused on that race car.
"I’m never going to say, ‘That’s not my job’ or ‘Go talk to so and so.'
"’m always here to help, but I want to start, you know, I want when I go home at night, I want to go home and turn off things and enjoy life a little bit more. I want to enjoy what I do more."