: Do you like the way that the SEMA has evolved?

Vandergriff: Not really. What’s missing is the desire, the passion, the feelings we talked about. Now it’s a job.  To people like me it wasn’t a job, it was our life’s career, it’s all we wanted to do.  I’ve often said, “I really have not had a job since 1965, I have been doing what I love to do.”  I had an opportunity when I was with Ford to move up the corporate ladder and stuff like that, but I didn’t like that – I’m not a corporate guy.  But that’s a good thing about drag racing or racing in general -- we are not corporate.

:  With NHRA being a not-for-profit, membership organization, do you feel that there should be direct oversight from racers, the aftermarket, sponsors or fans of the NHRA would to bring in some of the passion?

Vandergriff: I think so. I have often said that as far as the Board of Directors go and people who are on there go – I don’t think the passion is there.

DRO:  Why do you think that the IHRA and AHRA basically failed when Larry Carrier and Jim Tice died?

Vandergriff: Well, they were really never a force to start with, and Tice and Carrier had a vision of what they wanted and when they went away, they didn’t pass that on, which in a similar way is in a way what happened with the NHRA when Wally died.  I’m not saying anything bad against the people who run the NHRA, but they don’t have the same passion for the sport that Wally had.  Wally was at every drag race there was and we had fun in those days, we did stupid stuff.

: Can you give us an example of some “stupid stuff”? 

Vandergriff: We had to get a (former) NHRA employee out of jail one time.  You see I ran the (winners) pool at all the races, when this guy got a little inebriated, wrecked a car and went to jail, and I had to use the pool prize money to bail him out of jail (laughing).  We had fun, we used to take care of each other. I think that is a lot of what’s missing today, we weren’t that big spread out deal – we were like a family. It think that is what is missing (at NHRA) today.

:  It can be argued that drag racing is less popular with those who attend the races today or watch it on ESPN2.  Why do you think that is and what do you think could be done to fix that?

Vandergriff: Well, as far as the TV thing goes, watching it on TV is nowhere near reality based as watching it here in person.  Today there is so much more for people to do than there was back, oh, twenty years ago.  The kids today aren’t as car-conscious as they used to be. It used to be that whoever had the coolest wheels (car) was king dog, but today all they want is (custom) wheels and a sound system and they are happy.  No custom (engine) stuff, just so it starts every morning, then they are happy.  My generation and probably the one right after me were still very automotive oriented and we have been on a declining path since.  Also the entertainment dollar is getting so scarce now, and our racing costs continue to rise and we can’t generate any additional money. That’s the sad part.

:  Do you see a way to fix it?  Do we need to bring in today’s Mustangs and Challengers and Camaros – the cars that are sold in showrooms today?

Vandergriff: I think we need to go back to a lot of those things we used to do, which was get involved with people.  We used to do things at schools all the time, but we don’t do that anymore.  Seems like we are not nurturing the next generation the way we used to.

:  Speaking of racing, your family is involved in Top Fuel racing. What does it cost to run a single car professional top fuel team for a year?

Vandergriff:  If you do it right, between $3 and $3.5 million dollars a year.