FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: NHRA Communications (818) 914-4761 SMART DECISION HELPS VANDERGRIFF CLIMB TOP FUEL POINT STANDINGS COMMERCE, Ga. -- When Bob Vandergriff Jr. started his Top Fuel team in 1994, countless people told...
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: NHRA Communications (818) 914-4761
SMART DECISION HELPS VANDERGRIFF CLIMB TOP FUEL POINT STANDINGS
COMMERCE, Ga. -- When Bob Vandergriff Jr. started his Top Fuel team in 1994, countless people told him that a veteran crew chief was the foundation of any successful NHRA operation.
Vandergriff took the advice and finished no better than 12th in the NHRA Winston point standings during his first three seasons. So when he needed to hire a crew chief to tune his Jerzees Activewear Dragster in 1997 and beyond, Vandergriff listened to only one person.
Vandergriff, 32, hired Rick Cassel, 37, who had never served as a crew chief but gained valuable experience during the 1990s as an assistant tuner for standout drivers Jim White, Don "The Snake" Prudhomme and Larry Dixon.
"I kind of thought this was the make it or break it year for me," Vandergriff said. "I've really got to step up our level of performance and do better, and I'm going to do it my way. Hiring a first-time guy in Rick, I had a lot of confidence in him."
That confidence was justified. Vandergriff, from Alpharetta, Ga., is a career-best fifth in the standings entering the 17th annual, $1,462,250 Fram Nationals, April 10-13 at Atlanta Dragway. The race is the fifth event of the 22-event, $30-million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series in 1997.
Vandergriff joined the Top Fuel elite at the Slick 50 Nationals presented by Western Auto in late March at Houston. He was runner-up to Joe Amato and became just the fifth driver in NHRA history to record a 4.5-second pass with a run of 4.594 seconds at a career-best 310.55 mph.
"The guys and Rick have just jelled, really come together faster than I imagined," Vandergriff said. "We want to be in the top five. If you get yourself in that mix in the top five, anything can happen."