Tommy DeLago, Tommy “D” to his friends, is definitely a rare breed. Think about this: there are currently 32 Teams in the NFL. There are 30 Teams in Major League Baseball. There are only 29 Top Fuel Funny Car Teams that have scored points this year. Of those only about 20 teams run the full schedule. So, in the entire global population there are more qualified starting quarterbacks, and more starting first basemen, than there are Funny Car Crew Chiefs.
There’s nothing about his life that’s easy. He spends most of his time on the road or in the shop. Tommy not only tunes this 8000+hp monster, he is also responsible for developing the next generation parts and technology that will continue to re-define whats possible with an eight cylinder, pushrod motor. I spent Saturday morning at the NHRA Nationals in Sonoma with Tommy in the Die Hard Funny Car pits and I can honestly say I don’t think I’ve ever seen this level of passion and determination anywhere. It was like watching an expertly conducted orchestra, as each team member moved with a purpose, knew their role precisely and worked without pause. Overseeing this symphony is Tommy.
It was clear that, even without hanging over the shoulder of each member of his team, that he knew exactly what they were doing and how they were doing it. And why shouldn’t he. He’s spent more than eighteen years in professional racing and has done a turn at every station on the team. He even spent the early part of his career behind the wheel of his own car, so he has a keen understanding of what it takes to make sure his driver has his head in the right place. In the short period of preparation between rounds, there are a thousand tasks that all need to be considered and completed and Tommy has control of all of them. He has to, because if he fails at his job, the likelihood of an 8,000hp bomb going off in the face of his young driver are considerable.
Add to that mind numbing scenario speeds in excess of three hundred miles per hour and the dangerous effects of failure rise exponentially. So, going back to the intro, maybe it’s not a matter of who is qualified to do the job, but who’s got the right kind of brain to face this kind of pressure, this kind of necessary perfection, and be willing to say, “Y’all just stand back…I got this one”. Tommy “D” is that kind of guy.
If you love racing, any kind of racing, get yourself out to an NHRA event, get into the pits and go watch for yourself what Tommy does and how he does it. You’ll be impressed. – Ken Stouffer