Russo collaborates with international partners for Las Vegas comeback

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A cool and truly international collaboration is in the works for NHRA’s closing two national events beginning later this month.

Confirmation has come that Canadian-born driver Jeff Arend and wily veteran tuner Paul Smith (from Florida) will help to guide a scheduled comeback for the Australian Funny Car racing team owned by Peter and Helen Russo (from Victoria).

Together the team is targeting entering both the season-ending NHRA national events: the Toyota Nationals at Las Vegas (Oct. 29-Nov. 1st) and then the AAA Auto Club Finals at Pomona (Nov. 12-15th). Jeff Arend will pilot the Russo’s Chevy Monte Carlo bodied car at Las Vegas and if all goes to plan, Russo will reassume the controls for the Finals event.

“This all came together following some exchanges between Peter and Paul Smith,” confirmed Arend, who now resides in San Dimas California. “Initially, Paul called me and asked that I go and inspect the car which is based about a 1/2 hour away – take a look at car and inventory of parts and components they have.

“Things then sort of evolved from there,” Jeff continued. “Because Peter had let his license expire, Paul asked me if I could test drive the car at Las Vegas to help him get things sorted. So the plan became that, enter the car for the Vegas event and after that (on the Monday) Peter would jump back in and get his license back up to date.”

The team will race a Chevy Monte Carlo-bodied car which has seen some limited events since making its first appearance on the NHRA scene back in 2011. Jeff reports however that this is in fact a very good car with capable modern components.

“This has a chassis built by Grant Downing at Worsham Racing,” he continued. “They have an AJ engine and Stage 6 heads – all very good stuff. Peter and Helen are just looking for help in getting everything right so they can continue on. There is a deal put together to use one of Paul’s fuel systems and tune-ups. Paul is also going to be bringing with him some of his crew members too – so that affords a great opportunity for Peter’s crew to learn from some of the best.”

For Arend, the driving op will be his first back in NHRA Mello Yello Series drag racing since driving for Steve Pleuger’s team at Pomona and Las Vegas events held earlier this year.

“Paul and I are great friends and we have known each other forever,” Jeff added. “I’m excited about the opportunity to drive for him again. But the whole idea is to go out there and have some fun. At Las Vegas there will be no real pressure – if we can qualify that would be great – but no big deal if we do not. The objective and priority will being getting the car right and then getting Peter licensed again.”

“Then after that we will all go to Pomona and I will give Peter a hand with some driving technique,” added Jeff who is also an instructor at Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School. “All in all, it’s going to be a fun way to end off the 2015 season.”

By Bruce Biegler at


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