It’s full steam ahead for Jordan Vandergriff. Or, at least that’s how he sees it.
The loss of his primary sponsor for 2020 isn’t a good enough reason for the rookie Top Fuel driver to shelve his anticipation of racing next year.
“We don’t have anything right now,” Vandergriff said. “Of course, I plan to run next year. So, hopefully, we can find the right partner for next year and possibly even get a full deal next year, so that’s what my plan is.
“But I do want to thank D-A for giving me a shot. They got a rookie out here for his rookie year, and they gave me a chance to go to three semifinals and a final. So, I do thank them. I thank them for what they did, and they helped me start my career, so I’m very thankful for that.”
For a seasoned veteran, the loss of a major sponsor can be a gut-punch. Vandergriff, who is a rookie of the year candidate, understands this is a part of the game he’s going to have to learn to accept.
“I’ve never really dealt with anything like this,” Vandergriff admitted. “It’s my rookie year, so I haven’t dealt with anything at all even close. So, when I got the phone call from Uncle Bob and he told me that they had decided to opt out, I didn’t really know how to process it. It took me about a few hours to process what was going on originally, I was just kind of shocked.”
Vandergriff admits the reality of the loss hit him as he was driving home from the Dodge NHRA Nationals in Las Vegas, really forced him to process the unenviable situation.
“For me, it was just, okay, well I need to find some money now,” Vandergriff said. “I need to go out and find somebody else. So, I’m optimistic for next year, for sure.”
Vandergriff represents the next generation of nitro racing, a generation that will be the seasoned veterans a decade from now.
“Well, we’re the future of this sport,” Vandergriff said. “If you don’t keep us out here, it’s going to … I’m not going to say the sport’s going to die, but you need to keep the young kids out here because they can be your future for 20 years.
“I plan to be out here for at least 20 years. And I know that the legends of the sport like John Force and Ron Capps and those guys, obviously they’re great for the sport. They’ve been great for years. But they don’t have as many years left as I do or Austin Prock does, or even Justin Ashley does. So, I think it’s just important.
“And especially because we’re so young and we’re marketable kids, we can take the sport to new heights, I feel like. So, I need to stay out here. I need to stay at the track.”
Losing his primary is just another one of those life lessons Vandergriff has learned in his introduction to major league drag racing. What’s the most significant lesson he’s learned overall?
“Stay humble,” Vandergriff said. “Whenever you think you’ve got it, these cars humble you. They’ll kick you right in the butt. And then, of course, even with the D-A backing out, nothing’s guaranteed. So, just stay humble, stay confident, and keep working, and everything will work out.”
Vandergriff’s optimism isn’t just wishful thinking.
“We’ve been talking to a few companies,” Vandergriff said. “I actually have a potential one coming out today, so it’s looking okay. My uncle [Bob Vandergriff Jr.] is one of the best in the business to keep getting companies out here, especially new companies. So, I have all my faith in him and the plans that we have in place. So yeah, I do believe we’ll have something for next year.”
Doug Herbert remembers it like it was yesterday. After all, it’s hard to forget a Top Fuel engine detonation that set him back $100,000 — in 1999 dollars. #DragRacingNews #nhra #NHRAFinals CLICK LINK TO READ FULL STORY – https://t.co/gyXlc5AfD1 pic.twitter.com/n0hUSDIDQb
— Competition Plus (@competitionplus) November 15, 2019