Race Reports

lee.jpg

Eleven Funny Cars ran in the three-second zone during Friday’s two qualifying passes at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals and Paul Lee and tuner Jim Oberhofer were among that fast group, emblematic of their quick rise to prominence in just their third race together.

Paul Lee and Jim Oberhofer. On the surface you might think they’re a bit of an odd couple, the comebacking Funny Car driver and the talented Top Fuel tuner, brought together under the new Straightline Strategy racing group, needs and positions being filled, but the duo – both originally New Jersey boys – have a lot in common beyond their roots.

Lee is back to racing with a new lease on life after a near fatal heart attack in December 2016 and one might say that Oberhfoer is also looking for meaning and life after his long tenure with Kalitta Motorsports ended in late 2018, and together they’re creating an interesting story in the Funny Car pits.

Eleven Funny Cars ran in the three-second zone during Friday’s two qualifying passes at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals and driver Paul Lee and tuner Jim Oberhofer and their McLeod Dodge Charger were among that fast group, emblematic of their quick rise to prominence in just their third race together.

“We’re getting there,” allowed Oberhofer. “All of the other teams can see that by looking at the [run data] sheets. We’re getting a baseline, and gathering data. We’ve got less than a dozen runs together but we’ve run in the threes a couple of times already and I’m still learning.

Full StoryFull Story

paullee.JPG

You wouldn’t be able to blame Paul Lee if he’s just happy to be here. Not because he’s back doing what he loves after suffering a massive heart attack, though, sure, that too. The McLeod Funny Car made its debut at the Arby’s NHRA Southern Nationals (race seven on the calendar) and advanced to the second round. 

Just like that, Lee got a round win under his belt. He returned to action at the Route 66 NHRA Nationals and qualified for the toughest field to date; and one of the most difficult fields in recent memory. He’ll start in the No. 15 position after a Saturday night run was thrown out due to a centerline infraction. That doesn’t change what’s becoming indisputable: The McLeod Funny Car is a really nice piece

Lee got back into a Funny Car in Phoenix for the first time following his heart attack. He drove J.R. Todd’s Funny Car while the future world champion was still getting his feet wet in the short wheelbase category. Those handful of passes with Kalitta Motorsports were meant to confirm what doctors told him he could do: drive again. 

“I was anxious because I didn’t know how my heart was going to react,” said Lee. “I had done a lot of rehab and the doctors said I was going to be fine and they had a heart monitor hooked up to me and all of that but just the… anxiety of knowing what I went through and my heart has damage. It’s never going to be 100 percent again. There’s nothing you can really do to prepare for that, you just have to go drive it.

“The first lap after my heart attack, driving J.R.’s car, there was anxiety there for sure and my heart rate was up; we know it was because we had it hooked up to a heart monitor. But after that first one everything just started to feel natural again.”

One thing that helped him feel comfortable: Kalitta Motorsports. Lee has been around for a long time. Long enough to have friends in a lot of places in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing community, but that team made him comfortable. Jim Oberhofer, a mainstay at Kalitta for many years, now tunes Lee’s Funny Car. Many of the crew members on the car worked with Oberhofer and are now working with Lee at the newly formed Straightline Strategy Group. Everything fits together in a way that works for Lee. 

“He’s a lifelong friend of mine and a lot of the crew members were friends of mine so that really helped me,” said Lee. “A lot of those guys were confident in me just like I had confidence in them. That really meant a lot to me.”

While Oberhofer calls the shots, there’s a special team dynamic that plays a role in the McLeod Funny Car’s early season success. The Funny Car is parked in Don Schumacher Racing’s garage and the team formed a technical alliance with the Rahn Tobler-tuned NAPA Auto Parts Funny Car right out of the gate. That partnership, which is a two-way street, got the team off and running. 

“Every part you see here is something we bought from Don Schumacher,” said Lee. “The only thing we didn’t buy from them is something that they didn’t have available.”

“The way we’re doing it is that whatever Tobler says, that’s what we’re doing. He’s a proven champion. He’s a many time world champion. I wouldn’t question a single thing he has to say. He hasn’t just helped us out as a team, but me as a driver. He’s told me several things that I’m sure he’s told Capps before, too. That’s really been invaluable.”

That’s a great position to be in, and there’s still a lot of season to race. 

PLR.jpg

May 29, 2019 (JOLIET, IL) Paul Lee will return to the seat of his privately owned Nitro Funny Car this weekend at the Route 66 Nationals in Joliet. Lee, primarily backed by McLeod Racing, is looking to have another successful, clean weekend. This weekend, JEGS Performance will be McLeod’s Dealer of the Race and Dragzine will be the official publication.

The Chicagoland track has always been a favorite of Paul Lee. During his Top Alcohol Funny Car career, he was the runner up in 2004. Lee also received his Fuel Funny Car license during a Monday test session after the event.

“Route 66 has always been really great to me,” says Lee, owner of McLeod Racing. “I went to the finals in Alcohol Funny Car and now we are looking to do it in the Nitro Funny Car. After Atlanta, I can’t wait to get back in the seat. If Atlanta was any kind of insight of what this team and what this car can do, I have no worries that we will going rounds on Sunday.”

During the race weekend, JEGS Performance will be hosting a Dealer of the Race sale. Our customers will be able to become McLeod equipped at Jegs.com from May 27th to June 3rd.

“Racing is fun, but the B2B is a huge part of the success,” says Lee. “JEGS has been a great partner of McLeod Racing and it’s great to be able to come together and give our customers a great discount. Being successful both on the track and in the office is what sets this McLeod team a part from the others.”

Racing on a professional level, Lee is able to offer a unique approach to traditional marketing. Dragzine will be a part of the McLeod Funny Car this weekend as the official magazine partner.

“We have been doing business with James Lawrence and the entire Power Automedia group for many years on the manufacturer’s side,” expresses Lee. “Power Automedia is a great avenue of marketing for McLeod and we want to return the favor and shed some national television light on the publication, Dragzine.”

Fans will be able to watch the McLeod team and meet Paul Lee at the Straigthline Strategy Group pit next to Clay Millican. Qualifying begins Friday at 6:15 pm and continues at 3:30 pm on Saturday with Sunday eliminations starting at 11 am. Be sure to follow Paul Lee on social media to get some Behind the Scenes action during the Route 66 Nationals.