NHRA - National Hot Rod Association

'The Surfer' hopes to ride recent wave of success to first NHRA Funny Car win

The weekend before the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals in Las Vegas, Jeff "the Surfer" Diehl tuned Don Knoblauch’s Nostalgia Funny Car to victory at the Funny Car Chaos Classic event at Texas Motorplex and is hoping to carry that momentum into his own car this weekend.
02 Apr 2022
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
Jeff Diehl

The weekend before the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals in Las Vegas, Jeff Diehl was proudly posing in the Texas Motorplex winner’s circle after tuning Don Knoblauch’s Atomic Punk Nostalgia Funny Car to victory in the B field at the Funny Car Chaos Classic event. It’s a car that Diehl assembled and put together the combination, and it ran 3.92, 3.91, and, in the final, 3.87 on the eighth-mile course.

Now Diehl is hoping to carry that momentum into his “big show” car this weekend, gunning for his first final-round appearance and maybe even his first win.

“The good thing about this race is that you can finish second twice and still have a chance to win the race,” he joked, referring to the format that advances the first two finishers in each four-car grouping to the next round. “I’m good at finishing second.”

“The Surfer” good-naturedly refers to his eliminations woes, where’s he won just eight rounds in more than 80 encounters, but also knows that in 2019 he finished behind Tim Wilkerson but ahead of world champs Robert Hight and Shawn Langdon in the first round at this event to advance to the semifinals. One more good break and he could have been in the final where, as we all know, anything can happen.

He's also got longtime friend and respected tuner Aaron Brooks on board this weekend because Doug Foley is not running in Top Fuel, and they’re working on the clutch that has been a problem in slowing down some otherwise good early numbers.

“Aaron's always kind of been looking over me when he doesn't run with somebody else; he's here to keep me on the straight and narrow,” Diehl said. “It really helps me; it's too much for me alone.

“I’d also like to get that ‘three monkey’ off my back,” he said. “We’ve run 4.02 but haven’t been able to get into the threes yet. Maybe this weekend."

Diehl, like many, has been affected by the downturn in the economy and will probably stay on the West Coast and help Knoblauch with the Chaos car, “which puts meat on the table.”

He also hopes to return to the U.S. Nationals at some point just to qualify for the field. In 2017, when he ran the entire season, he just missed the field, qualifying in the No. 17 spot, but that’s a wait-and-see proposal at the moment.

For now he and wife Leeza --– she battling the effects of a broken foot from a recent fall -– will try to put their best remaining feet forward and hope to pull of some more upsets and get back to the winner's circle.