Jon Oberhofer named crew chief of the Doug Kalitta-driven Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster YPSILANTI, Mich., (May 16, 2007) -- Kalitta Motorsports, founded in 1959 by drag racing legend Connie "the Bounty Hunter" Kalitta and one of the most...
Jon Oberhofer named crew chief of the Doug Kalitta-driven Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster
YPSILANTI, Mich., (May 16, 2007) -- Kalitta Motorsports, founded in 1959 by drag racing legend Connie "the Bounty Hunter" Kalitta and one of the most successful auto racing teams in history, announced personnel changes today to help solidify their standing among the elite teams competing in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series highlighted by the reassignment of longtime Team Kalitta wrench man and co-crew chief Jon Oberhofer.
Effective immediately, Oberhofer, a 38-year old resident of Ypsilanti, will take over the reigns as crew chief of the 8,000-horsepower Mac Tools Top Fuel dragster driven by veteran Top Fuel ace and three-time POWERade points runner-up (2003, '04, and '06) Doug Kalitta. Oberhofer has relinquished his duties as co-crew chief of the Zantrex-3 Top Fuel dragster driven by Dave Grubnic. Connie will retain his title as crew chief on the Zantrex-3 entry.
Oberhofer's tenure at Kalitta Motorsports began in 1991 working as a crewman on the Top Fueler driven by Connie's son and two-time Top Fuel World Champion (1994-'95) Scott Kalitta. He worked his way up through the Team Kalitta organization to take over as clutch specialist in 1998 on the dragster driven by then rookie and soon thereafter Auto Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award winner Doug, Connie's nephew. He was promoted to crew chief of the Grubnic-driven rail in 2004, where he has served that position ever since, guiding the team to two NHRA national event victories (Topeka, Kans. -- 2005, Gainesville, Fla. -- 2006).
"This is a great opportunity for me and hopefully for our whole team," Oberhofer said. "I'm going to miss working with the guys over on Grubnic's car, but they're in good hands. I've learned so much from Connie already and I know that will continue in my new position. I'm very grateful to him for everything he has done for me and my career in drag racing.
"More than anything right now, the Mac Tools car needs leadership, just like the Zantrex-3 car needs focus. I think the way we've approached this change will provide those things. I'm looking forward to working with Doug again and with all the guys on the Mac Tools team."
Helping Oberhofer with the turning the knobs and flipping the switches on the Mac Tools dragster will be Shawn Dill, a 33-year old native of Omaha, Neb., as that team's newly assigned assistant crew chief. The Mac Tools machine is very familiar to Dill as well. He has been working as a blower and ignition specialist on "Big Red" since he joined Kalitta Motorsports in 2002. He will continue to fulfill his blower and ignition responsibilities on the race car in addition to helping Oberhofer with tuning decisions. Dill, who is currently restoring his own front engine digger at his residence in Ypsilanti, began his life as a full-time quarter-mile crewman in 1998.
Also moving up within the Team Kalitta conglomerate is James Riola. Riola, a 40-year old native of Santa Maria, Calif., will move from cylinder head specialist on the Mac Tools dragster to working alongside Connie as assistant crew chief on the Zantrex-3 dragster. Riola began his career as a mechanic in the NHRA in 1993 and joined Kalitta Motorsports in 1998. A lifelong fan of straight-line racing, Riola, along with his dad, Mike, and younger brother, Joe, spent many weekends traveling to the drag racing hot spots of Southern California with their own race car. Riola has also spent time wrenching on Pro Modified drag racers and Sprint cars.
Team Kalitta also recently announced that drag racing maestro Dick LaHaie has been hired by the team to be a tuning consultant on all four of the organization's nitro-fueled straight line runners. As a former Kalitta Motorsports crew chief, LaHaie guided current DHL Toyota Solara Funny Car pilot Scott to consecutive NHRA Top Fuel championship titles in 1994 and 1995. In his legendary drag racing career, LaHaie, known to the drag racing community as "Dick-O", 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.
Jim Oberhofer, Team Kalitta general manager, crew chief of the KB Racing, LLC Top Fuel dragster driven by Hillary Will, and Jon's brother, stated his enthusiasm about Kalitta Motorsports' future, "The past couple of weeks have been invigorating for our whole organization. We brought "Dick-O" back and the changes we've made today are exciting, too. I'm really thrilled that we have such great and talented pool of people already in place to pick from to make these changes that we think are necessary to raise the caliber of our entire program. We consider ourselves a family, and these changes absolutely make that point certain. I'm confident in my brother, Shawn, James, Dick and everyone here that we have taken the right steps to bring more championships to Kalitta Motorsports."