Just six weeks ago, Jeff Arend wasn’t planning on racing or driving any type of Funny Car.

Then, the veteran NHRA driver had an unexpected change of plans in a good way.

“Matt Bynum, who is Del Worsham’s car chief (on Alexis DeJoria’s Funny Car), called up and asked if I wanted to drive his Nostalgia car at the March Meet (in Bakersfield, Calif.), and of course I said, ‘Yes.’ Matt and I have known each other for a long time, and he has helped me out lots over the years,” Arend said. “In the three years they've owned that car, I'm not even sure that it actually even made it to the finish line under power.

“The Saturday before the March Meet, I went out and made three little test hits with it and it really showed some promise. Then the first run at the March Meet, it went 5.68 (seconds) and I think we were No. 4 qualifier or something.”

That was a sign of things to come.

“Obviously we ended up going to the finals there, which was pretty unexpected, but lots of fun,” Arend said. “That whole team was super happy.”

In the finals, Cory Lee, in his '79 Challenger, clocked a 5.658-second elapsed time at 260.01 mph to defeat Arend’s '78 Firebird, which crossed the finish line in 5.829 seconds at 236.92 mph.

Those results didn’t go unnoticed.

“After they announced that I was going to drive it at the March Meet, that was a few weeks before, Eddie Knox called me and said, ‘Hey, do you want to drive my car at Pomona (“The Problem Child’”), I'm like, ‘Sure, why not?’ So, we went from the finals of the March meet, showed up at Pomona, I'd never even sat in Eddie's car, never made a test run. And the very first run we went out and we were the No. 1 qualifier,” Arend said.

“Eddie and I have known each other for a long time, and I have offered a little advice here and there. I knew that they had a fast car, but it was a little inconsistent now and then. Eddie was like, look at whatever you want. We ended up starting off with a different style clutch disc program and that showed results the first run, going right to the top. The second run it slowed down a bit because of a dropped cylinder. I had a couple of ideas that Eddie and I talked about, so we implemented them before the first round, and we ran low ET of that round. So, that was neat, and now we're going, of course, to Phoenix, with a chance to win two races because it's a great running car.”

The Nostalgia Funny Car event at the Winternationals was postponed because of rain on Sunday and will be completed in the Arizona Nationals April 5-7 in Phoenix.

If all the momentum Arend was riding in the Nostalgia Funny Car ranks wasn’t enough on Monday, March 25 his good friend Del Worsham got in touch with him.

“Del called me and said, ‘What are you doing tomorrow?’ I go, ‘I don't know. Why?’ And he goes, ‘Do you want to come drive Alexis's car at Bakersfield and make a few test runs?’ So, I was in Bakersfield Tuesday driving her car.

“The test runs were good. They wanted to work on something. It seemed like if they just wanted to try and get it down the track, just to qualify, like at Pomona or something like that. It would shake. And it shook the first test of Bakersfield, and then... Del and I were talking and, of course, Del's the crew chief, he's super smart and came up with this idea. And then we made two runs in a row that were more than fast enough to qualify anywhere. You could probably run a mid-3.90 and not even think about smoking the tires. They can have that tune-up plugged in there now for when they go to some track where they just have to get down the track.”




Arend, who has won four career Wallys in the nitro Funny Car class, acknowledged getting behind the wheel in the Big Show Funny Car was quite a rush.

“I always tell the Nostalgia guys, who never believe me until they actually do it, even though they're both Funny Cars, and I was driving one of the fastest Nostalgia Funny Cars, especially for 60 foots, like Eddie Knox's, as soon as I hit the throttle in Alexis's car, it was like, holy (expletive). It's not even close. It's like comparing a fricking Volkswagen to a (expletive) rocket fighter or a space fighter or something. It's crazy.

“But just the whole big show stuff, it leaves so hard, and then the g-force keeps going up and up until at least half track, where in a Nostalgia car when it leaves, for the first second the g-force is going down after that. 

Arend said the plan moving forward in 2024 will likely include more Nostalgia races with Bynum’s Funny Car, which is owned by Randy Luchetti and Jodi Todd.

“I don't know exactly how many. Who knows? We may try and run for the championship, we'll see,” Arend said. “(Eddie Knox), He's got a new driver (Todd Plate) that hasn't licensed yet. I'm going to go out with Eddie and try and get him licensed.”

Arend is still trying to digest what a whirlwind the last six weeks have been for him.

“I didn't really expect any of it. I've been asked to drive some Nostalgia cars before, but if it runs on Nitro, you have to really trust the crew and how it's put together,” Arend said. “So, I'm not just going to say yes, all the time. It's got to be the right people. To start off this year with a car (Bynum’s) that had, basically, I don't think ever qualified or gone to the finish line, and then actually go to the finals...and then hop in another car I've never driven before and run low ET the first run and low ET on race day and have a chance to win two Wallys is pretty crazy. And then, just getting to drive Alexis's car on top of that is even more crazy. It went from driving nothing to I've probably driven more cars and more runs than any other driver this year.”

And Arend also is lending a hand to another “Big Show Funny Car team when he has time.

“I was helping Paul and Dave Richards as well in Pomona,” Arend said. “I’m helping Dave just get fitted in the car right, make sure everything was in the right spot, 'cause he's a big guy in a fairly small car. There were quite a few things we found that we made better, that's going to make him be able to drive better. I'll probably pop over and help him a little bit in Phoenix. Another set of eyes never hurts.”