(Darr Hawthorne photo)

Bob Vandergriff Sr. has been involved with NHRA drag racing from the very beginning. He began as an ad salesman and moved on to own several businesses including Hedman Hedders, Trans-Dapt and Hamburgers Performance. He has been an active member of the Specialty Equipment Market Association and was named SEMA Person of the Year in 1989 and was inducted into SEMA’s Hall of Fame in 2003. Today, he continues at the helm of Hedman. He is the father of Top Fuel driver Bob Vandergriff Jr. Darr Hawthorne spent some time with the racing icon at the NHRA Finals at Pomona.

: You are arguably one of the founders of NHRA drag racing. What led to your involvement with racing, specifically NHRA racing?

Vandergriff: It started when I moved to California after being in the Army and met a fellow by the name of Joe Pisano – who became my best friend; we got to be very close.  Joe was racing, obviously, so that prompted me to get involved with racing too. This was 1964 or ’65. I’d actually moved to California to work for Ford Motor Credit Company in their first finance office here in LA. After leaving there, I got into the car business, which is where I met Joe at Warren Biggs Chevrolet.  Joe worked there sometimes and had just acquired Venolia pistons, his brother Frankie also worked there and so did Nick Arias.  That whole deal was where it started in about 1965.