KALITTA, CREW CHIEF HAVE TUNNEL VISION
When Jim Oberhofer started working for Kalitta Motorsports, Doug Kalitta was the bottom-end specialist for uncle / boss Connie Kalitta’s Top Fuel dragster. Oberhofer is in his 10th season as crew chief for Doug Kalitta’s Mac Tools Dragster. They won their first event together in 2009, and now Oberhofer has stepped down from his position as Kalitta Motorsports Vice-President to concentrate on his crew-chief duties and giving his driver, a 43-time winner, his first title. The team’s goals, Oberhofer said, are “to win a championship, plain and simple.”
He said to do so “would be very special. Doug’s more than just a driver to me. He’s like a brother. We’ve had a lot of great times and some struggles here, as well. I’ve been with the Kalitta organization for 30 years. We’ve always had great drivers here at Kalitta Motorsports, because that’s what Connie has wanted. We’ve been fortunate over the years to have some great drivers, and this group that we have right now is special. They’ve won a lot of races between them. The talent here is unbelievable. We all work together. We’re one team with four cars.”
Doug Kalitta loves Oberhofer’s focus. He’d love to shake the annoying distinction of being the NHRA’s most successful competitor without a championship.
“I’ve got the same group of guys this year, and that’s always good to keep the team together. I’m really excited about that. I’m 21 years [in the Top Fuel class] this year, and I’ve been second a lot of times. So I’m really hopeful that we can put something together this year,” Doug Kalitta said. “I’ve got a great team behind me, and I’ve got a bunch of terrific sponsors, including Mac Tools, and Toyota. We really appreciate what TRD has done for us in terms of tech support.”
The work his team does in the Ypsilanti, Mich., shop on the Willow Run Airport property and on the road between races makes the difference.
“I’m at the airport every day, working on different deals. Things have been busy. We have added five 737s, and it’s a step up. Overall, we have 48 planes and over 300 people working with us,” Kalitta said. “I’m very fortunate that my guys here make it easy on me. I’m in the office all week, so they basically make it that I can fly in and drive this thing.”
He said he and his crew “are all a bunch of hungry hunters, and it’s nice to have teammates that you can bounce things off. We’re excited to see Shawn and JR in the Funny Cars. Both are great drivers and I’m expecting big things out of Richie.”
Kalitta said he’s always eager for the season opener in Pomona, Calif., at the Lucas Oil Winternationals.
“I have to admit, Pomona is a place I love to run,” he said. “The history of the track makes it a great place to open the season. We’ve run well there, so we’ll see what happens. We want to start fast at Pomona and take it one at a time and just lay it down.”
Oberhofer said a championship for Doug Kalitta would be extra-special for Connie Kalitta, too. Working with him, Oberhofer said, has “been cool. He’s truly one of the most under-appreciated motorsports owners/drivers/crew chiefs in the world. He loves drag racing. He has a passion about it like nobody out here. He makes you want to do things. You want to run through a brick wall for him. There’s just something about him. He has helped the sport from the ground up.”