Arend is named driver of Kalitta DHL Funny Car To help preserve the legacy of his legendary son, Scott Kalitta, who died as a result of a high-speed racing accident in Englishtown June 21, Kalitta Motorsports team owner Connie Kalitta will continue his son's passion for acceleration by bringing Scott's DHL Toyota Solara Funny Car back into racing action with Jeff Arend as driver.
Kalitta's dynamic life as both a loving family man and a legendary drag racer will never be matched, but the team chose Arend, a 45-year-old resident of San Dimas, Calif., and 12-year Funny Car veteran, from an extensive list of contenders to wheel the nitro-fueled, 7,000-horsepower DHL entry for the remainder of the 2008 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series beginning with the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis Aug. 27-Sept. 1.
"We wanted to put someone in the car with experience and someone who would appreciate the opportunity and would fit in with our team personality-wise. We found that in Jeff," drag racing icon Connie said. "We had plenty of candidates for the position, but Jeff most possesses the qualities we are looking for.
We will never be able to replace Scott, and we're not trying to. Our Funny Car will always be Scott's car, no matter who drives it. We want to get the car back out on the track to keep pursuing Scott's dream of having a successful Funny Car program for our team. Our friends at DHL and all of our sponsors have been very supportive, and we owe it to them and to Scott and our fans to keep that dream alive."
Connie will continue his role as head tuner on the DHL Funny Car with assistance from crew chief Glenn Mikres. The DHL team had its most successful outing of the 2008 season with a runner-up finish in Chicago in early June. It was Scott's first visit to the final round since his lone Funny Car title triumph in 1989 in Houston.
Scott defined his celebrated career as a racer behind the wheel of a Kalitta Motorsports Top Fuel dragster for back-to-back world championships in 1994 and 1995. He accumulated 17 Top Fuel trophies in his 27-year career.
"Obviously, the loss of Scott was very traumatic to all of us who knew him," Arend said. "I think that Scott's passing probably affected me more because of our similarity in age and the fact that we both have families. Since being told that I'm going to be the new driver, I have gone through many emotions. Happiness has not been one of them, but no one can be truly happy under these circumstances. However, I am truly honored to be in this position.
"Indeed, it will always be Scott's car. I am just the newest member to be added to the DHL Funny Car team, and I will do my best to accomplish what Scott and Connie started out to do, and that is having a consistent, competitive, and safe race car capable of going rounds and winning races. I've known Glenn Mikres for a long time, and I look forward to working with him, Connie, and the whole DHL team.
"Scott was a racer who would race you hard but one who always enjoyed life, too. He was a great husband and father to his children. For those who know me, I try to emulate those same basic traits. I will do my best to carry on what Scott was best known for – family."
Arend most recently campaigned a Funny Car for Worsham Racing for the entire 2007 NHRA season. He has 85 NHRA starts and one NHRA national event victory, in Reading in 1996. That year, he became the first Canadian to surpass 300 mph.
Interestingly, the race car chassis that Arend won with in Reading and earned his Funny Car license in was the same chassis that Scott won with in Houston.
Arend is a native Toronto and is married to Windy. They have one child, daughter Jenna, 8.
In addition to his father, Scott is survived by his wife, Kathy, and sons, Corey, 15, and Colin, 8.
Connie concluded, "Filling the position was not an easy task, to say the least, and we want to say thank you to everyone who has shown interest in driving our car. We understand that the process was not only difficult for us, but for all of the prospective drivers. We also want to say thank you to our friends in the racing community for their input in helping us make this decision."