Event-Winning Vandergriff Team Shutters Its Shop

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, April 13 2016
Leah Pritchett got her first-ever Top Fuel victory earlier this season in Arizona. On Tuesday, it was announced her Bob Vandergriff Racing team was closing its doors.

Leah Pritchett got her first-ever Top Fuel victory earlier this season in Arizona. On Tuesday, it was announced her Bob Vandergriff Racing team was shutting down operations.

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Bob Vandergriff Jr. shut down his NHRA Top Fuel team Tuesday, his unexpected retirement leaving recent first-time national event winner Leah Pritchett and Dave Connolly free agents after four of 24 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series events.

nhra logoAccording to a report on NHRA.com, the entire BVR organization has been shut down and all employees have been released from their duties.

“I’ve been considering retirement for a few years now, and I’ve actually done it once already when I retired from the driver’s seat at the end of the 2014 season,” Vandergriff said in a statement. ”Now it’s time to retire from the sport altogether. The recent unexpected death of BVR supporter and close friend Josh Comstock, from C&J Energy Services, has made me reflect and seriously reevaluate my priorities in life.”

Comstock, the chairman/CEO of C&J Energy Services, died in his sleep on March 11 at age 46. The founder of the Texas-based company in 1997, Comstock was Vandergriff’s primary sponsor for the past seven years. Connolly, who moved from Pro Stock to Top Fuel in 2015, has been driving the C&J Energy Services dragster.

Pritchett, who scored her breakthrough victory at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Chandler, Ariz., on Feb. 28, has been driving the Quaker State Top Fuel dragster.

“I’ve missed a lot of things in my children’s lives over the years,” Vandergriff said, “and the desire to spend more time at home with my family has weighed on me greatly the last few years. When combined with the struggles the oil and gas industry has been facing over the last 12 to 18 months, it seemed like now was the right time to retire. C&J Energy Services CEO Randy McMullen and I sat down recently, and after lengthy discussions, he was in agreement and fully supported my decision.

“I want to thank everyone who supported BVR, from our sponsors to our vendors, employees, and most of all my father, Bob Vandergriff Sr. My father has been the bedrock throughout my career, and without any hesitation, he has supported our efforts through the many challenges we’ve faced over the years. We’ve had a tremendous group of people at BVR and I expect and wish for great things in the future for each and every one of them.

“I’ve enjoyed spending the last 22 years of my life in drag racing. I owe a lot to the sport, its fans, and the individuals who have played key roles in my career.”

Pritchett posted her first NHRA Top Fuel victory in an historic all-female final against Brittany Force during the 32nd annual CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals near Phoenix. Pritchett vs. Force took place 34 years after Shirley Muldowney faced Lucille Lee in the first all-female Top Fuel final at the 1982 Springnationals at National Trail Raceway in Columbus, Ohio. Muldowney won that match en route to her third world championship.

Pritchett was hired during the offseason to replace three-time world champion Larry Dixon, who finished fourth in the point standings in 2015. Pritchett’s car has been tuned by co-crew chiefs Mike Guger and Joe Barlam.

Connolly finished 10th in points and qualified for the six-event Countdown to the Championship playoffs last season after racing to three runnerup results. Jason McCulloch has been crew chief on Connolly’s car, along with assistant Ron Douglas. Dixon and Connolly combined to go 0-for-9 in Top Fuel finals in 2015.

Pritchett was competing in her first full Top Fuel season after graduating from the Jr. Dragster, Pro Mod and Nostalgia Funny Car ranks.

In a statement on her Facebook page, Pritchett said: “It is beyond unfortunate, surprising, and a tip of a seahorse to say the least with the retirement news of Bob Vandergriff, and ultimately the doors officially closing of BVR today. I have beyond huge gratitude to Bob for believing in me, on and off the track…his steadfast efforts to keep this program afloat, and providing me with the most memorable times made with some of the best people this phenomenal sport has to offer… coupled with my first Top Fuel win makes my time at BVR ultimately invaluable.

“They say all great things must come to end, and this has been a short, but most epic run.”

McMullen issued this statement from C&J Energy Services: “We have enjoyed and greatly benefited from our relationship with Bob over the last eight years, both on and off the track. We support Bob in his next steps and look forward to continuing to work with him for many years to come on other ventures.”

Connolly is seventh in points and Pritchett is 10th following the most recent event, the 17th annual DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Antron Brown, the two-time/reigning world champion, defeated Pritchett and Connolly en route to his final-round win over Troy Buff. Force is the Top Fuel point-leader.

Round 5 of the series, the seventh annual NHRA 4WIDE Nationals, is set for zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C., April 22-24.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, April 13 2016
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