Bob Vandergriff Jr. might not be through with drag racing.
The former Top Fuel driver, turned team owner, Vandergriff confirmed he has taken steps to make a limited return to competition.
On April 11, 2016, Vandergriff abruptly announced his retirement from drag racing, leaving his teams and drivers, Leah Pritchett and Dave Connolly, looking for work. A month earlier, major sponsor Josh Comstock suddenly died, and management of C&J Energy Services began steps to file bankruptcy.
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Vandergriff has been silent in the media since issuing the statement confirming his retirement.
"Obviously, a perfect storm transpired, the death of CEO Josh Comstock combined with the disastrous conditions of the oil field industry which were far worse than originally forecasted and have continued much longer than anyone expected," Vandergriff said in an interview with CompetitionPlus.com. "After Josh’s death I was made aware that there was a very good chance that I could be left with a half a million dollars worth of bills, payroll for 25 employees and no money coming in the program in the near future or I could accept an offer that would allow me to ensure that all of my vendors got paid, my employees payroll and bonuses would get paid. I just couldn’t take the gamble and put my family at risk. In light of C&J’s recent filing for Chapter 11 reorganization, I’m certain the decision was the correct one."
Despite being in the second year of a three-year contract, the Chapter 11 filing and Bob Vandergriff Racing being a non-critical vendor, meant the race team would have been the first to go.
Vandergriff tried to sell his race team and equipment but said he has yet to find a legitimate buyer.
"Even a fire sale wasn’t enough incentive for anyone to buy my operation," Vandergriff said. "With that in mind, I can either let that stuff sit there and become obsolete or try and put together a new program and have BVR return to the sport."
Vandergriff said he has generated some sponsorship interest, but a return will be with a different business approach.
"I have started making some initial steps in that direction and have generated some interest from companies that know the type of success I’ve had in the past creating a great return for our previous partners," said Vandergriff. "If I do return it will be under a whole new model of operation, focused on the bottom line.
"You might not see us run all of the qualifying sessions, our employee lineup will be different, our rigs might just roll into the track on Friday mornings, not Wednesdays; we will look at all forms of cost control to try and get the cost versus value factor back in line."
Will Vandergriff return to driving?
"I couldn’t have been more pleased with Dave Connolly as my replacement, if I do return to the sport the driving job is his, if he wants it."
Bobby Bennett is the Publisher/Editor of CompetitionPlus.com, a leading independent online drag racing magazine, since 1999. For the latest in dragster news worldwide, visit www.competitionplus.com or follow on Twitter @competitionplus