LAHAIE JOINS KALITTA
Legendary NHRA drag racing driver and crew chief Dick LaHaie, a 65-year old resident of Lansing, Mich., has decided to return after a brief retirement to the world’s quickest and fastest motorsport as a tuning consultant for Kalitta Motorsports effective immediately it was announced today by the Ypsilanti, Michigan-based team. LaHaie will begin his new responsibilities with drag racing patriarch Connie “the Bounty Hunter” Kalitta’s team of four nitro-fueled race cars this weekend, May 4-6, at the O’Reilly NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Int’l Raceway, just outside of St. Louis. LaHaie’s newly created position will encompass his guidance on all Team Kalitta entries.
LaHaie’s last stint in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series was with Don Prudhomme Racing where he guided Top Fuel ace Larry Dixon to consecutive Top Fuel World Championships in 2003 and 2004. LaHaie retired as Dixon’s crew chief following the 2005 NHRA season. In his legendary drag racing career, LaHaie amassed 15 event wins as a driver and 46 wins as a crew chief, which helped place him in the No. 31 position on the list of the NHRA’s top 50 drivers of all time. He won the NHRA Top Fuel championship as a driver in 1987.
The announcement of LaHaie’s return also marks a reunion with Kalitta Motorsports, which fields three Top Fuel dragsters and one Nitro Funny Car in the NHRA professional ranks. As crew chief, LaHaie guided current DHL Toyota Solara Funny Car pilot Scott Kalitta, Connie’s son, to consecutive Top Fuel championship titles in 1994 and 1995. LaHaie’s initial tenure at Kalitta Motorsports lasted from 1993 until 1997, where he helmed 13 victories as crew chief for Scott in his Top Fuel ride.
“I see this as trying to help an old friend,” LaHaie said. “I’ve been friends with Connie for over 40 years. He certainly knows how to run fuel cars without anyone’s help, but maybe I can provide an extra set of eyes. It’s funny really. When I retired as a driver in 1991, I figured my career in drag racing was over, and then Connie called and said, ‘Hey, you want to come run my kid’s car?’. I did and we had some really great times back then and managed to win a few races. Now, Connie’s called me again. I’m really excited to be back with my old friend.
“I’m also really excited about working with Jim [Oberhofer, crew chief on the Hillary Will-driven KB Racing LLC Top Fuel dragster] and Jon [Oberhofer, crew chief on the Dave Grubnic-driven Zantex-3 Top Fuel dragster] again. They were crew guys working for me at Kalitta’s back then, and now they are both crew chiefs. I think of both of them as sons, and I’m very proud of them and what they have accomplished.
“I’m looking forward to working with Ken Black [owner of the KB Racing LLC dragster] as well. His dedication to our sport is incredible, and I respect him a great deal. Most of all, I’m really excited about going out and having fun with old friends and going drag racing again. My health is pretty good and I’m ready to get back out there. I’m sure we’ll have a lot of fun and hopefully we can win some more drag races together.”
Jim Oberhofer, who also serves as Kalitta Motorsports’ general manager, is anxious to see one of mentors return to the track. “This is a much-needed shot in the arm for all our race teams. Our sponsors and our fans deserve to see our cars running better than they are right now, and Dick will definitely help us see things in a different light. His wealth of knowledge about drag racing is immeasurable. To say that we’re excited about our future would be a huge understatement.”
LaHaie’s daughter Kim Richards serves as co-crew chief along with her husband, Tim Richards, on the Top Fuel dragster driven by Brandon Bernstein.