Shawn Reed was lying in bed, taking the liberty and luxury of sleeping in, last Dec. 22, when he received the coolest Christmas present.
His cell phone buzzed, indicating he had an incoming text message. To that, he nonchalantly said, “Oh yeah, big deal.”
He just had finished his stint with the Paton family’s NHRA Top Fuel team, who closed their operation, lopping a year off their deal. So Reed was in “Hey, I lived my dream” mode, expecting nothing more to come of his drag-racing career. When the text-message signal went off, he said, “I figured, ‘Don Schumacher, John Force, they’re not calling me.’”
They weren’t. But Reed relented and picked up the phone. And if he hadn’t been wide awake before, he certainly was then.
The day before, Dec. 21, was the shortest day of 2018. However, it was one of the longest for Top Fuel team owner Bob Vandergriff. Blake Alexander had surprised him when Vandergriff was driving to the airport to pick up his daughter for her Christmas visit. That call from Alexander put a kink in his holiday plans, and Vandergriff took to the phone for some last-minute – race-driver –shopping.
“He just texted me. I still got the text,” Red said. “He goes, ‘Blake’s no longer with Team BVR. We should get together and talk about something,’ and I’m just like, ‘Holy s—, me?’ Little ol’ Shawn Reed?”
Yep. Now “little ol’ Shawn Reed” will be making his Bob Vandergriff Racing debut this weekend at the Mopar Express Lane SpringNationals at Houston Raceway Park. It will be the first time rookie Jordan Vandergriff, driver of the D-A Lubricant Dragster, will have a teammate.
(“Houston, then we’ll skip Charlotte, and then we’ll both be in Atlanta. Of course, that’s Bob’s home town. And then I hear that we’re both going to be in Chicago and then that’s when things kind of get different. Jordan’s scheduled to run Denver right now, and then he’s not funded for Sonoma, Seattle, but I think I’m going to do Sonoma, Seattle. They’ll get the car there. I’m there already,” Reed, of Lake Tapps, Wash., said.)
Josh Hart, the third team driver, will be competing at Baytown, Texas, in the Top Alcohol Dragster class. Hart is expected to get a few more passes under his belt in the Top Fuel car before stepping up the pro ranks possibly as early as the June 21-23 Norwalk, Ohio, event.
Reed has split his time since 2015 between Top Fuel dragsters and Pro Mod boats in what until this year has been the Lucas Oil Drag Boat Racing Series.
But he said, “There’s really two or three reasons why I wanted to come to Bob Vandergriff [Racing]. I think we’ve developed a pretty good friendship.”
They enjoy a round or two of golf together now and again. Bob Vandergriff is an avid golfer, but Reed said he can keep up respectably with his new boss: “It’s a lot closer than you think. I’ve been a scratch golfer my whole life. He’s a 0-1. I’m about a 6 right now. We played in Phoenix, first time we ever played, I was ahead of him all the way until [hole No.] 15 and then I messed up on the last two holes. If you ask Bob, Bob will say, ‘You know what? He’s a good stick. He’s very comparable.’”
According to Reed, Vandergriff went to Palm Beach after the Phoenix race and every day for a week. “And before Phoenix, I didn’t golf [since] last September, six months. I belong to a private club, too, but I only play about 10 times a year. And now my golf clubs are in the trailer, so we’ll play a lot more now. When I race it’s a little difficult because Ron and Joe [crew chiefs Douglas and Barlam] wear the pants, really.”
Reed said, “I’ve always liked Bob Vandergriff. He kind of gets a bad rap about stuff, about the way he shut down when his sponsor passed away. But he’s a businessman. Look, if any of the people that badmouth Bob Vandergriff had x-amount of money and that money was going away, why would you spend $2 million to continue when you don’t have $2 million coming in? Anybody that badmouthed Bob Vandergriff in that situation would do the same damn thing. It’s easy to talk about somebody when they don’t know the story.”
Their friendship started with casual chit-chat near the starting line.
“I just started talking to Bob on the starting line, and I’m just like, ‘Man, it was nice to see you back out here again. I’m Shawn Reed. I drive Paton’s car.’ I go, ‘Your damn car is fast.’ Next time we’d talk, he’d see and wave at me. He’s kind of a quiet guy, really. We just started talking and stuff,” Reed said. “And then, I talked to him, especially probably the last [few] races [of 2018]: Dallas, Vegas, Pomona I talked to him every time. I like to watch. I’m a fan. Everybody says, ‘You’re up at the starting line a lot’ and I’m like, ‘I could sit there and watch every single second.’”
He’ll have less time to watch this weekend. He’ll be driving the dragster in which Leah Pritchett earned her first of her seven Top Fuel victories, at Phoenix.
The car, he said, has “been sitting for a while. Leah Pritchett last drove this car. Actually, she won in Phoenix and then her last race was in Houston, where she went to the semis, then the car has been parked.”
It needed a trip to the Morgan Lucas Racing shop, where it morphed from a Brad Hadman-built car.
“It’s a Hadman car, but it’s really not anymore because it’s a Lucas front half and a Lucas back half, so it’s really a Lucas car now. It just all got redone, front half, back half.”
Perhaps Reed, the 2018 Gatornationals runner-up to buddy Richie Crampton (whom he met when the Australian-born Top Fuel racer was a crew member for Morgan Lucas) can christen it new iteration with his first victory.
— Competition Plus (@competitionplus) January 4, 2019