Rod & Jill Fazekas’ Nostalgia Nitro Funny Car Teams
By Al Heisley – Photos By Rod & Jill Fazekas
Jill and Rod Fazekas of Pottstown, Pennsylvania, are in their shop building a pair of pro exhibition nostalgia nitro funny cars as we speak. They hope to have the cars ready for testing this fall and if all goes as planned, they’ll be racing each other in the spring.
It will be husband vs. wife and Ford vs. Chevy match racing. And just like the old days their cars will put on a show for the crowd with long smoky burnouts, dry hops and big header flames. How much cooler can you get? Both cars will run a late ‘70s tune-up and 90% loads of nitro.
Recently wed, this is not the beginning of this competitive couple’s story. Nor is it the first time they’ve raced together. You see, Jill started her racing career by winning her first race at 5 years of age on flat track motorcycles. Yes, you read that right: 5 years old. Rod, on the other hand, didn’t get his start until he was 7! Both youngsters following in the footsteps of their dads and their love of motorsports.
Jill’s father Denny was a motorcycle drag racer. At 3, Jill could usually be found in her dad’s shop tinkering or “helping” her dad work on his race bike. When she turned 5, she started racing herself. 2016 marks her 40th year in motorsports. Her resume includes AMA Flat Track & Drag Racing Motorcycles, Micro Sprint Racing, ARDC Midget Racing, SCCA Solo 2, Road Racing, Professional Monster Truck Racing as driver of the Live Nation/TNN Monster Jam WRENCHEAD.com sponsored Truck.
Most recently, she spent 8 years driving for Hanna Motorsports Jets. Five seasons behind the wheel of the BIC Lighter Queen of Diamonds and 3 in the GOJO supported Queen of Diamonds II. In addition, Jill has worked in the industry for 20 years: marketing, sales and branding and product design. Right now she is team leader of the marketing group at S&W Race Cars. In 2013 she was voted one of the “10 Hottest Women in Drag Racing” by Drag Illustrated Magazine.
Rod, on the other hand is a fabricator, race car builder and former crew member with Hanna Motorsports Jet Cars. Rod has built everything from SEMA Show Cars, Custom Motorcycles and all types of drag cars.
Rod got into the sport because his father was a racing fan and car builder. As soon as he could, Rod, began shaping his own career working as a welder and fabricator at S&W Race Cars many years prior to Jill’s S&W employment. In the early ‘90s, Rod left S&W to start his own business: a custom fabrication and specialty construction business. In the early 2000s he closed his construction business opting instead to go back in his personal history and open Rod’s Custom Fabrication specializing in one-off custom motorcycles, street rods and race cars. To gain additional support for their new endeavor, Rod recently began working with ES2, Inc. as an electrical control systems electrician, technician and fabricator.
It seems that Rod has always been involved in racing. From racing himself to being a motorcycle mechanic and his 15-year stint as a crew member on Al Hanna’s Jet Funny Car & Dragster Teams. In 2009, Fazekas tracked down the second owner of Al Hanna’s Eastern Raider Funny Car, and purchased the original rolling chassis and body. He restored the car to its original condition which included the required safety updates.
Rod ran the car in a couple of races as a BB/FC in 2011-2012 and then parked it. 2016 also marks his 40th year in motorsports.
Not a low bucks endeavor by any stretch, Jill and Rod sold off all of their toys to get to this point. Bikes, ATVs, anything they figured they could live without. It all went so they could get their new project going while remaining debt free.
Rod’s funny car is a ’66 Chevy Nova. He’ll be using the restored “Eastern Raider” nitro funny car ‘roller’, w/o the body, that Al Hanna campaigned around the east coast from 1979-1982. Currently, it’s undergoing necessary changes to mount the new nostalgia body, fit the new engine and other required upgrades.
Jill’s ’71 Ford Mustang, a recent purchase, was actually a West Coast alcohol funny car. Numerous chassis upgrades are being made for safety, mounting the new engine, fiberglass body and cockpit adjustments to fit the 4’ 11” driver.
Rod speaks with pride that everything possible is done in their small home shop. The pair are investing heavily in sweat equity and Jill speaks from her heart about all the additional support they are getting from family, friends and manufactures.
For example, when deciding on engines for their cars, the couple went to their friend Jim Oberhofer at Kalitta Motorsports in Ypsilanti, Michigan and purchased the TFX long-blocks. Nicky Boninfante, crew chief of Del Worsham’s DHL Big Show Nitro Funny Car is helping with the clutch set-up and he is providing much appreciated advice. And Del Worsham, will be guiding the setup and combination for the nostalgia team; something Del has lots of experience with.
Crew: Denny, Kenny, Jessica, Ella, Jeff
Product Support Sponsors: Pro-Werks / Stroud Safety / PXP Racewear, High Performance Racing Underwear / PRP Racing Products/ S&W Race Cars/ JerseyGirl TieDowns / Pro Glass Windows / Van Industries, Inc. / FK Rod Ends / Simpson Race Products / ES2 Inc./ OdysseyBattery / ISP Innovative Safety Products
FB Fan Page: @PMNitroFunnyCars