: When, in your opinion did NHRA drag racing change from a club of sorts to a full time business and promotional company?

Vandergriff:  It was in the 1970s, I think that I left in ’77 and we were just starting to capture things.  Probably the biggest difference today versus then is back in those days we had Presidents and Vice Presidents of companies, big companies… FRAM, Valvoline (coming to the NHRA) and today you have third or fourth level management people instead.  The NHRA was an up and coming racing series and then we (NHRA) got involved in the television thing.

From left, Kevin, Bob Jr. and Bob Vandergriff Sr. and Vic Wood.  (Darr Hawthorne photo)

:  What was it like working for Wally Parks and the NHRA when you were there?

Vandergriff: It was a fun business, we all had a good time.  I was there at the first Gainesville race, everybody stayed in the same hotel, there were specialists in every area, but everybody was rowing the boat in the same direction.

:   Can you tell is us something about Wally Parks that no one else knows but is of significance to our sport?

Vandergriff:  Oh boy… like I said, Wally wasn’t money-motivated, he just wanted to get kids off of the street.  He never dreamed that it (the NHRA) would grow to this, it was beyond his imagination.  Jack Hart was there also, he was the same, our whole deal in those days, I think we had twenty-one people then including seven Division Directors, every one worked so hard.  Bernie Partridge, Dale Ham, Darryl Zimmerman, jeez we had great parties – it was a very loose environment. 

: Can you compare the NHRA of Wally Parks, Dick Wells and yourself and the current management of the NHRA with Tom Compton and Peter Clifford?

Vandergriff: (Laughing) Wow, that’s not fair.  Tom Compton, Peter Clifford, Gary Darcy… I know them all, they are all good guys, but one thing – they are not racers.  My feeling is that you need to have some empathy for the sport to be very, very effective.  I am not saying that they are bad businessmen, but the passion that we all had is what is lacking, I think.

:  Do you think direct involvement as a hot rodder or racer is important for the top levels of an organization such as NHRA?

Vandergriff: Experience helps! (Laughing) Let’s just leave it at that.