DRO: Why was getting Rob so important to you?

Vandergriff: I think he’s one of the best and probably one of the most underrated crew chiefs out here, as far as the younger guys go. Some of the places he’s been, I think he’s been given a bad rap and I don’t think he’s really been given the opportunity to show what he’s capable of. He’s either been in somebody’s mess or cleaning up somebody’s mess. Unfortunately for him, he’s not a guy that just goes in with the quick fix. He picks at stuff and works at stuff and I think if he’d been given an ample amount of time to chart a direction and go there, he’d already have been very successful.

I’m actually pretty happy that other teams made bad decisions because it made him available to us. We’re going to show everyone just how bad their decisions were.

DRO: Which races are you going to hit this year?

Vandergriff: We’re going to run Atlanta, Chicago, Topeka; and then we’ll run Columbus, Englishtown, and St. Louis; and if we can get a little more funding it will allow
us to go on the West Coast swing. If we do not go on the West Coast swing, then we’ll come back for Brainerd, Memphis, Indy, and Reading. If we haven’t secured any more funding by then, we’ll be done for this year.

DRO: What’s the realistic cost for you to go racing?

Vandergriff: Well, we had everything, but we did have to freshen some stuff up, buy some new heads and new blocks and other parts and pieces. So, other than that, by the time you pay the crew guys and the insurance and the hotels and costs at the track, you’re looking at about $50 grand per race on the downside. Now, if you want to go out and knock heads with some of them other teams, it could cost you $100 grand, or more. And that’s obviously what we’re looking for in the long term.

DRO: You’ve got Haldex on the side of the car now. What do they do?

Vandergriff: Haldex makes brake adjusters for 18 wheelers. They’re the leader in that category, a big company, and a great supporter of mine. Chuck Kleinhagen, he’s the company president and a family friend for many years, and when I called him, he said, ‘No problem.’ They’re based in Kansas City and without their support we wouldn’t be here.

DRO: Why race a partial season with NHRA when you could go over and run an 11-race season in IHRA and probably give Clay Millican a good run for the championship?

Vandergriff: Basically it’s because you’re looking at the cream of the crop over here. It’s like the major leagues versus double-A or whatever. You can take a look over there and see there’s no names of any magnitude on the cars, other than Millican’s team. If you want to knock heads with the best—and that’s why we’re out here—this is where you have to be.

Part of it’s competitive, but it’s also the opportunity NHRA provides to help us in attracting a multi-million-dollar sponsor. It’s an easier sell to ask for that kind of money over here compared to over there.

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