It’s Victory — for Canadian Favorite Son!

Despite his permanent transplant from Canadian to Californian soil a few years ago – Jeff Arend can rest assured that his fan base in Canada remains just as attentive…. 

And the popular driver delivered for his fans big time yesterday — winning the NHRA’s O’Reilly Spring Nationals Funny Car championship title at Houston Raceway Park.

The win was Arend’s 3rd career victory and his 2nd win driving for Connie Kalitta’s DHL/Toyota Racing team.  His other two wins had come in 1996 (at Reading PA – driving for Paul Smith) and at Memphis TN (in 2009).

The celebration is on for Jeff & daughter Jenna!

Arend, originally from Toronto, earned his Funny Car victory when his final round opponent Mike Neff fouled at the starting line in his Ford Mustang. Arend’s DHL/Toyota crossed the finish line in 4.259 secs at 297.68 mph.

Jeff, who entered Sunday’s final eliminations after qualifying 10th (4.203 secs) had claimed earlier round wins over Paul Lee, Tim Wilkerson and Bob Bode.

His quickest winning time during those three rounds had been a 4.307 secs — while in comparison opponent  Neff had reeled off a string of low four teens.  That had made Neff a heavy favorite for the final showdown.

But Arend was surprised however to hear Neff hit the throttle twice in the opposite lane in the championship round and then leave before the tree turned green.

“We knew we needed a little bit of help against Mike because he was strong all weekend,” Arend said. “It was a long light and I kind of heard him go burp-burp,  As I was going down the track I was thinking I should shut it off — but it was too much fun. You never know what is going to happen in drag racing and sometimes it surprises you. To get this win and dedicate it to Scott (Kalitta) — that was huge.”

Jeff’s win was in fact his 2nd consecutive final round at the Houston event.  He placed R/UP to Matt Hagen last year. The win vaulted Jeff Arend into a 5th place standings in current NHRA Full Throttle Funny Car Championship points – after five of 22 events.  That is his highest level placing in those standings so far in his career.

Jeff Arend drove the Scott Kalitta/DHL tribute car to victory at NHRA Houston!

Posted by:  Bruce Biegler  — Photos by:  Marc Gewertz