earning NHRA Rookie of the Year honors in 1994,
Bob Vandergriff Jr. appeared in six Top Fuel
final roundsincluding the 1995 U.S. Nationalsbefore
leaving the sport at the end of the 2000 season.
He made a return to competition at the Atlanta
event this year, however, with crew chief Rob
Flynn (formerly of Cruz Pedregons and
Del Worshams Funny Car teams), handling
the tune-up on Vandergriffs Haldex-backed
Vandergriff has qualified
at three races since his comeback, but bowed
out in Atlanta in the opening round, had a similar
exit at Chicago, and finally got his first round
win at Topeka. While still in Atlanta, the Alpharetta,
Ga.-based driver spoke with DRO about sponsorship
issues and ways to increase drag racings
made you quit Top Fuel after the 2000 season?
Vandergriff: Well, one reason I stopped is
we lost our sponsor, obviously, and we got kind
of late notice on it so our hands were kind
of tied on putting together a new deal. And
then it was the same time we started our family.
It was hard to be gone with one child, but when
the second one arrived, the prospect of being
gone 30 weeks a year wasnt very appealing.
I didnt get married and have a family
to say, See you in three weeks or a month,
and traveling with them, we tried that, but
between baby strollers and cribs, and baby bags
and staying out at the track late and screwing
up their schedules, it just didnt work.
So, I decided at that time Id just stay
home for at least a couple of years until they
were old enough to travel and we didnt
have to deal with strollers and all that stuff.
Theyre five and three now and we bought
a nice motor coach, so its a lot easier
DRO: So you always planned to return?
Vandergriff: Yeah, we had kind of targeted
2005, but then a good friend of mine, Rob Flynn,
became available. It actually hatched during
the rainout in Pomona this year, sitting around
in the pouring rain with no racecar, no trailer,
nowhere to stand except under other peoples
awnings and we looked at each other and said,
Man, we need to have a racecar.
So we actually were at my brother Kevins
house for dinner and started talking, saying,
We oughta run Atlanta. Its
right in our backyard and weve got all
these parts and pieces and it wouldnt
cost that much. Then we said, Well,
if were gonna run Atlanta, why dont
we try to run a few more races, and then
it grew to 10 races and we said, Now weve
gotta go raise some money, and we
started knocking on some doors to people who
have helped me throughout my career and the
next thing you know we had enough to run 10
Since Rob was availableRob or Johnny
West, those are the two guys Id like to
work withit kind of speeded up our plan
and were going to try to turn this into
something for next year.