Veteran nitro Funny Car driver Jeff Arend confirmed to Competition Plus he will drive the nitro Funny Car owned by the Russo family at the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals Oct. 17-20 at Texas Motorplex in Ennis near Dallas.
“I’m definitely looking forward to it,” Arend said. “We bought some later model cylinder heads for it at the end of last year had them checked out and then bought all new parts for them. Our original plan was to go to Las Vegas (Oct. 31-Nov. 3) and Pomona (Nov. 14-17) to end the year and then we decided to also go to Dallas. That way we can kind of test a bit with these new heads and make a partial run or two. It certainly helped that Jim Harmon from California Pest Management came on board and helped us out a bit financially as a major associate sponsor.”
The last time Arend drove the Russo Funny Car – owned by Peter and Helen Russo – was at the NHRA Finals in November of 2018.
Since 2016, Arend has driven a limited schedule in the nitro Funny Car owned by the Russo family. He competed at three races in 2018, for the Russo’s including the last two of the season at Las Vegas and Pomona where he qualified at both with a 4.11-second elapsed time.
“The Russo car drives fine,” Arend said. “We are not really trying to change a whole bunch besides the cylinder head program so we can make a little more power. We will probably start off a little more on the conservative side the first run or two and then go back to what we know, and the car is a good 4.0 to 4.10 (second) car. It has a good tune-up in it, and it is not too hard on parts and a lot of fun to drive. I would like to make three qualifying runs for sure and see where we are at and I love Texas Motorplex.”
Arend said he and Mike Smith are primarily responsible for tuning the Funny Car.
“It’s cool to be part of tuning the car and setting up the clutch,” Arend said. “We get to do a lot of work on it and it is more rewarding because we have so much input on the car.”
Over the last several years, Arend has found a niche competing on a limited schedule in the NHRA Mello Yello Series – and he also has served as a fill-in driver.
Arend’s last drove as a substitute driver for Jonnie Lindberg, the primary driver for Jim Head, at the Route 66 Nationals May 30-June 2 in Chicago. Lindberg missed the event to return to his native Sweden as he pursued U.S. citizenship.
Arend qualified with a 3.98 in the car for the event and beat Shawn Langdon in the first round and lost to Jack Beckman in round two.
Arend, who has won four career NHRA national events, served as a substitute driver for Kalitta Motorsports driver Alexis DeJoria at the 2016 season-ending Auto Club Finals in November in Pomona, Calif. DeJoria was sidelined because of a concussion.
Arend clocked a personal-best 3.930-second time at 317.19 mph during the event. Arend upset Matt Hagan in the first round before losing in round two to Courtney Force. Arend clocked a 3.979-second elapsed time against Force with a career-best 323.97 mph.
Arend also is competing in the California Hustler Funny Car in the Nostalgia Series.
“Everybody has a different procedure warming up and all that kind of stuff, so you have to think a little bit to remember which Funny Car you are getting into,” Arend said.
Arend will conclude his season behind the wheel of the California Hustler at the Hot Rod Reunion Oct. 25-27 in Bakersfield, Calif.
“I will go to Dallas, and come back Sunday and drop by home and then drive up to Bakersfield because we are going to test on Monday (Oct. 21) and then run the Reunion (Oct. 25-27) and then Vegas then next weekend, have a weekend off and then run Pomona.”
— Competition Plus (@competitionplus) January 4, 2019