We all know the dominating story of Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus winning five straight NASCAR Sprint Cup titles. Over different rules packages, different points formats, they have continued to dominate and be up front season after season at NASCAR’s highest level. It’s usually about this time of the year my news feed gets pilled up with NASCAR Pre-Season news an in about half of those posts are about Jimmie and Chad’s quest for the ever coveted 7th title. It makes me sometimes wonder “Who is the Chad Knaus & Jimmie Johnson of Sportsman Drag Racing?” Well there’s no doubt that guys like Jason Lynch, Gary Williams, Troy Williams Jr., & Luke Bogacki have all earned the right to be the “Jimmie Johnson of Bracket Racing”. But imagine for a moment, would we all know who Chad Knaus is if he decided to become a crew chief for a USAC Silver Crown or World of Outlaws Sprint Car team? Hell No! Would he still be a genuine, certified bad ass? Hell Yeah!
So back to the original topic (Sorry folks, ADD is REAL) of who is the best crew chief in Sportsman Drag Racing? Well cases can be made for Austin Coil, Tommy DeLago, an Alan Johnson no doubt if we were considering professional categories. So when you consider Sportsman Drag Racing there actually are plenty of crew chiefs. Vinny Barone in Comp (also a car owner), Jeff Koons (Marco Abruzzi), and “Rod Nut” (Anthony Bertozzi) are a few examples, but for the most part we (racers) are our own crew chief. We decide what tires to put on the car, we decide what torque converter to install, what jets go in the carburetor, what the shock settings are, what throttle stop roll RPM we’re targeting, all these key decisions we make on our own! But what if you multiplied your operation? Two rigs, six cars, three golf carts, four scooters, plenty of spare engines, transmissions, torque converters, and every year you get rid of one to three cars to add one to three cars back. Sounds like a lot going on right? So in such a case you’d be in the market for a crew chief. Well the list of active Sportsman Drag Racing Crew Chiefs is pretty short so you call your half drunk cousin Marty over and after the first time he ruins a front pump in your $2,700 powerglide from not setting the converter in right his ass is canned and your back to the short list. Well what if I told you of a guy who more than likely is smarter than you, me, and half drunk cousin Marty combined; has swapped motors between rounds at divisionals, can change a lifter without taking the intake off (I wouldn’t believe it unless I seen it with my own eyes), and can setup a damn good .90 car in his sleep? You’d be interested right? What if I told you his name was Krusty? Well then he’d fit in perfectly on this Island of Misfit Toys that we call the community of drag racing! His actual name is Jason Oteri, from Phoenix, Arizona and enjoys the occasional round of golf along with long walks on the beach under a full moon (got that from his Match.com profile). Now if you’ve been to a Million Dollar Race or Spring Fling event to name a few and never met Krusty you wasted your entry fee, even if you took home a big check! Is he currently on the free agent market? Sorry, not so much. He’s been in a long standing working relationship with the C.A.R.S. Protection Plus team based in the Nashville, TN area with drivers Mia Tedesco and bracket racing legend Jason Lynch. So how did a guy named Krusty from the Left Coast (anything west of Abiline, TX is Left Coast to me) get involved with a figure of Bracket Racing folklore like Jason Lynch and rising star Mia Tedesco?
Well folks, like any story, the best place to usually start is the beginning. “I first got involved in racing from a neighbor actually. Don Macey lived next door, and my dad would see him every day on his way too work an on his way home as well. One day he came over and told my dad that he should come out that weekend and bring me along.” Well folks it didn’t take very long as a nine year old Krusty was hooked on the bitter-sweet mistress we all know too well named Drag Racing. It wasn’t much time until he was cutting his teeth in the Southwest running local points races where he formed a critical relationship in his motorsports career with the Zimmerman family. Mike Zimmerman Jr. & Sr. are well known racers in the area and it seems within no time Krusty and Mike Zimmerman Jr. (better known as “JR”) struck up a great friendship crashing on each others parents’ couches after long nights of racing, an other youthful evenings. The deep friendship between the two young men unfortunately came to an abrupt end on April 15th, 2004 as JR took his own life. The events of that day struck not only the Oteri & Zimmerman clans to the core, but the local racing community as well. In the previous years Jason became another son to both Mike Sr. and Kim Zimmerman, and it was heavy hearts that year where Krusty became the Pro Eliminator Points Champion at the then named Firebird International Raceway. He would later go on to not only drive the cars that JR drove, but learn under Mike Zimmerman Sr. who still to this day is an engine builder in Phoenix.
Fast forward a few years to 2010 where Comp Eliminator standout Vinny Barone is storing his entire operation in Phoenix as he tackled the Division Seven NHRA Comp Title and Jason Oteri was offered the opportunity to turn wrenches on everything from the golf cart to the high winding, all aluminum, V-6 “Econo” powerplants that Barone is famous for campaigning. Along the way the two Jason’s (Oteri & Lynch) crossed paths a couple times and fate’s wheels started to turn in such a way that would produce one of the most winlight producing teams anyone’s ever seen. As it happens Jason Lynch was fresh out of the Bullet Motorsports program and somewhat in a rut financially (where we all find ourselves once or twice in life). Danny Nelson and Lynch held on to their strong relationship where Danny produced one of his many fine race cars for Lynch to campaign in the 2011 season. With a homebuilt big block between the frame rails he set out to meet with Marco Abruzzi at Pittsburg Raceway with no tools, no air compressor, no pit vehicle, a pickup truck, and the dragster held down with one strap (can’t make this stuff up) in a well-worn enclosed trailer for three $10k’s. At that moment in time the idea of the C.A.R.S. Protection Plus team was hardly in the works. The 17 year old Mia Tedesco yet to claim the last winlight of any event in a “big car” up to this point with an active crew member and a very solid coach in multi time NHRA National Championship & Multi Time Big Buck winner Scotty “Too Hottie” Richardson. After a couple winners circle appearances by Marco that weekend Mike Tedesco (better known as Mr. T) and Lynch struck up a couple conversations that ended up in a plane ticket to Pennsylvania for Lynch. Several months later and Lynch is working for the Tedesco family and requests three whole weeks off of work to run the Winter Series in FL. Mr. T says “Sure Jason, just under one condition.” Lynch replies with the rich Hills of Tennessee voice “Sure.” “Mia’s been wanting to run that as well an I’d like it if you were pitted next to her and just act as an extra set of eyes an ears while she’s down there.” Well on the second day of the South Georgia Motorsports Park Super Buck Blast Mia ends up in the wall. After getting checked out at the hospital Lynch makes the phone call to Mr. Tedesco that no racer ever wants to make! Thank goodness Mia was ok and still willing to compete. Lynch offered up his Danny Nelson car for Mia to drive the rest of the Winter Series while Jason found rides in Jeff Burns and Luke Bogacki’s cars (where he actually won a Dragster Shootout in South Georgia in Luke Bogacki’s hot rod). Remember those wheels of fate? Yeah well Miss Mia capped off her 2011 season with her first big buck win in Jason’s Nelson car and the stage was set!
So why do I tell you this whole story about Lynch and Mia racing together in 2011? Well if Danny Nelson didn’t build the car for Lynch, if Marco decided to stay at home and catch up on some work instead of heading to Pittsburgh, Marco doesn’t win, Lynch and Mr. T never crossed paths, if Mike Tedesco told Jason “I really need ya to work those three weeks”, (hate to say it but) if Mia doesn’t crash at SGMP, or she turns it red in the 4th or 5th round at PBIR, NONE of the following happens. Mia might not be well on her way to a Top Fuel ride, the Lynch family would be in a much different spot, and for this particular article our pal Krusty would probably still be in Phoenix.
Last year around this time at the Orlando Lucas Oil Divisional one of those opportunities that takes a normal day of racing and turns it into a REALLY cool story. Started off with Jason Lynch doing typical Jason Lynch things in Super Gas such as showing eventual Super Comp World Champ Kevin Brannon the ENTIRE nose of the Chevy II in the opening round of S/G which is to this day one of the hardest drops I’ve ever seen, and just continuing to turn on winlights throughout the weekend. But going to the round of 10 cars on Sunday Jason completes the burnout and notices a rather odd vibration and noise coming from the powertrain. “Jason told me he heard something real odd in the car on that run and asked me to check it out after the round of 5. The game plan was just stage the car and hope the other guy went red. After a tiny burnout it worked just like we drew it up! As Lynch idled down the track he was taking out the Dzus tabs from the tunnel and trying to get everything out of the way. He got back, Mia started on the front clip of the car, I dove underneath to look at what we thought was a starter or cracked flexplate to find that the tabs on the converter were cracked.” So remember this car has been racing all day and the converter is at full operating temperature. “It’s a freak weird thing I’ve never seen before with any torque converter. I haven’t seen or heard anyone doing that before or since. But anyway Lynch ripped the driveshaft out, we got the shifter cable, puke tank, and all the little stuff undone to swap out for a new converter. We bolted it all back up and unfortunately he turned it red at 3 cars.” Although that effort didn’t lead to a winners circle picture the amazingly impressive fact is from timeslip to timeslip it was 16 minutes… SIXTEEN MINUTES!! You’d swear that Krusty and Lynch have a dummy car setup in the shop and practice transmission swaps like the pit crews at Hendrick Motorsports!
He can do more than thrash on race cars between rounds. Jason Oteri has one of the bar none race cars I’ve ever seen. And it is a bonified Xerox machine! It is such a mean combination it’s unreal. The Quick Fuel Technology fueled 383 pushes his S-10 to high 7.0’s low 7.teens anywhere in the country. I’ve personally seen many “good” race cars, but I’ve never seen anything like his S-10!
We brought some pictures along to show you how clean his truck really is. Abruzzi Racing Converters & Transmissions supplied the torque multiplier and powerglide that eventually lead to the Hoosier tires from Farron Lubers. Jeff Serra an In Motion Solutions stuck on the sweet name and number set for the truck while Kevin Rodden at K&R supplied the digital dial in board and switch panel. “I don’t care who you really are you never get to race as much as you really want to. Yes race cars are my job but my race car is still my passion. I love preparing for my run. Measuring up my opponent. Developing a strategy to beat em for that round. Checking air in the tires. Strapping up and getting ready to go just gives me that hunger for competition.” After quite a few years with the C.A.R.S. Protection Plus team I asked him where he see’s himself going in the future “I’m very happy where I’m at, I’m excited to see what can happen in the future with Tedesco’s Racing. We’ve won Divisional Championships and my ultimate goal is for one of them to win the World in one of the categories. I believe we have the equipment for it, and I know we have the talent behind the wheel for it. That’s really what motivates me and keeps me working hard.”
At about the time of this article being published Krusty and Team C.A.R.S. Protection Plus will be running down the road to Gainesville for the LODRS event and the Gatornationals where they’ve seen success in recent memory. If you see our good friend Krusty and he doesn’t look busy go up an introduce yourself, he’s one of the good guys! “Ya know I’d like to thank my Mom & Dad, Mr. T and the entire Tedesco Family, Jason, everyone at Quick Fuel Technology, Hoosier Tire, Marco Abruzzi, and Jeff Serra at In Motion Solutions. They do a lot of things for my race program and it means the world to me.”
Till next time y’all keep it shiny side up! Shabs