SEMA eNews Vol. 17, No. 44, October 30, 2014

NHRA: Vandergriff to Retire From Cockpit, Adds Connolly to Two-Car Team

Compiled by SEMA Editors

NHRA News

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VANDERGRIFF TO RETIRE FROM COCKPIT, ADDS CONNOLLY TO TWO-CAR TEAM: Bob Vandergriff Jr. confirmed that he will not be driving a Top Fuel dragster in the 2015 NHRA Mello Yello Series and will start his new direction solely as the team owner with a pair of dragsters driven by three-time Top Fuel champion Larry Dixon and 25-time NHRA Pro Stock winner Dave Connolly. The two Bob Vandergriff Racing dragsters will be sponsored by C&J Energy Services; crew chiefs will remain Kurt Elliott and Mike Guger.

"It's no secret that I've been planning on exiting the driver seat," Vandergriff said. "With the increasing demands of running the business, that time has come. I'm excited about my new role and it's actually recharged my batteries. I'm thrilled about the new direction for BVR. We have a three-time world champion in Larry Dixon and I've been able to hire someone who I consider one of the best natural drivers in the sport, Dave Connolly, to take over for me."

ENDERS-STEVENS HAS HER EYES ON THE PRIZE: Erica Enders-Stevens, the driver of the Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro, is second in points trailing Jason Line by 35 points. If she were to win the championship, she would be the first female to win a Pro Stock world championship. Enders-Stevens, who has four wins this season—which ties a career best—five No. 1 qualifying positions and only one first-round loss, took part in a national teleconference to talk about her season and her hopes for the remainder of the Countdown to the Championship. For more on this story, visit www.NHRA.com.

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J. FORCE FOCUSED FOR LATEST CHALLENGE IN LAS VEGAS: When the outlook has been at its most challenging for NHRA Funny Car icon John Force over the years, that has often brought out the very best in the 16-time and reigning world champion. After the departure of longtime crew chief Jimmy Prock last Wednesday with only two races remaining in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship, that famed rallying response will be put to the test one more time for Force. He enters the 14th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in second place, 36 points behind rival Matt Hagan. Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Shane Gray (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) joined Force as winners of this event last year. The race will once again be televised nationally on ESPN2.

"We’re going to come out swinging," Force said. "I’ll have a good race car [in Vegas], you can count on that. The rest is where Lady Luck takes us. I always believed that if you stand up and you fight, you do the best you can, and with a little help from the good Lord and the people around you, you'll be OK. If you win, that’s great. That’s the icing on the cake. But if you lose and you gave it everything you got, you still won. John Force needs to get up and rally himself and his team, whether new or old, and that’s what I plan on doing."

He Said, She Said

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“We have to take it one lap at a time and not get ahead of ourselves. It's important to go out there on Friday and get our weekend started off right and make a good, solid lap. Dickie (Venables, crew chief) is so focused on our team and our car right now. These guys are hungry, they have a lot to prove. Dickie always has great game plan and he's a smart racer. I have all of the confidence in the world in him and my guys and me as a driver. I can't wait to crawl back into my race car. To be honest, there's not that much pressure on us. Everyone expects John (Force) to win this thing. We just have to go out there and do our thing and not worry about anyone else. We have the team that is capable of doing that.”

—Points leader Matt Hagan on the final two races of the 2014 season and his 36-point lead over John Force. In the first four races of the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship, Hagan has raced to two wins, one runner-up finish and one quarterfinal finish. Hagan has three wins this season but has yet to win at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Inside the Numbers

3: Number of career wins Pro Stock Motorcycle points leader Andrew Hines has at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. His most recent win at the facility came at the fall event in 2009 and his other wins came in 2006 and 2007 at the fall event. Hines leads the points by 25 over his teammate Eddie Krawiec. Hines, a three-time world champion has raced to five wins this season and two runner-up finishes. In the four NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship events this season he has recorded one win, one runner-up, and two semi-final appearances.

Did You Know

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CIRCLE K RENEWS SPONSORSHIP OF NHRA WINTERNATIONALS: Circle K has renewed its title sponsorship of the NHRA Winternationals. The season-opening event for the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series is scheduled for February 5–8 at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, California. The Circle K NHRA Winternationals is where NHRA race teams unveil their new cars, sponsors and paint schemes and begin their quest to win NHRA world championship titles. "The Circle K NHRA Winternationals is one of the most popular and highly anticipated races of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season," said Gary Darcy, senior vice president of sales and marketing, NHRA. "Circle K has a great presence throughout Southern California and has proved to be a terrific partner in activating throughout the marketplace."

View the complete 2014 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.

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