My pick for Racer of the Week is Jeff Oppenheim, from Coraopolis, Pennsylvania. Jeff was recommended to me by our friend and the admin of DADs Old-Fashioned Drag Racing group, Don Turner. Thanks, Don!
When I contacted Jeff, we ended up staying up just about all night exchanging stories and information. Time will not allow everything I learned about him to be put in my segment, but suffice it to say this is a guy who lives life to its fullest. Jeff has a degree in industrial engineering from the University of Pittsburgh. He opened his own shop in 2004, and named it First Try Engineering. His friends that race with him are clients, competitors and buddies. the DADs group is a big family, and they all help each other all the time. He has so far raced at 27 tracks, but Quaker City Motorsports Park is his home track. Like me, Jeff is also deaf, and we both have learned to communicate articulately online. Chatting with him was a real pleasure.
His car is an '86 Chevy El Camino. It was originally a lawn maintenance vehicle in Maryland that Jeff purchased in 1999 when he was still in college. It had no reverse, but he drove it home. He's been working on it and racing it ever since.
Jeff has run Hot Rod Drag Week for 6 years now, but last year the car caught on fire when a little copper oil line broke and his car became a massive inferno in a matter or seconds. Once the fire got put out, it looked pretty messy, but Jeff's friends helped put it all back together with parts and donations and he was back on the street in a jiffy. When they asked him after the fire if he needed anything, he told them how about some barbecued ribs? He decided to leave the oxidized fender alone. It looks awesome and it still functions...the day of fire was new personal best at 9.69 that occured the morning of fire. He subsequently was presented with the spirit of drag week award. He used the rebuild opportunity to address some issues and improve upon what he had. He came back faster than ever.
He told me the roll cage was bent in house. Initially the body was finished by Jeff in 2001 with the help of his good friend Ernie Reece. So the existing paint has been on the car for a long time.
The engine was built by K-Tek performance. It's a 6.0 Chevy with Wiseco Pistons and Lunati rods. Holley intake with 160lb injectors controlled via a Holley efi, tuned by Mike Hamilton feeding the e85. It is a stock tank baffled by Jeff with triple Walbro 450 intank pumps. Air is forced into engine by a Borg Warner turbos 476r custom turbo kit built by First Try Engineering. It has an Isky camshaft with stock heads and dual valve springs. The transmission is a th400 built by Dishon Transmission. The rear end is a 9inch ford with 3.50 gears. The turbo back exhaust is 4 inch aluminum. Jeff built the custom headers himself.
The car has run a best of 9.34@142mph at the end of last year. Jeff would love to hit the elusive goal of 8.999 but he's happy with whatever the car runs as he just enjoys it for what it is. He would ultimately like to run a single digit average on dragweek but he's happy just to be driving and completing the week.
The car has parts from everywhere. The block is from Louisiana. The doors are from Texas, the rear end is from Houston that he acquired in a non-stop round-trip from Pittsburgh.
The traveling of racing has given Jeff a lot of opportunities to see many tracks. Between NMCA and dragweek, it has given him lot of great memories and even greater friends that he has met over the years.
Jeff donates his time and winnings to raise money for his local Toys-For-Tots campaign. He raised $2200 for the kids last year.
This is a great guy with a great story behind him and his hot rod. Jeff, we wish you good luck, safe racing and the best of times in the future!