NHRA Top Fuel veteran Bob Vandergriff Jr. to step aside at season’s end

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It was just a matter of time for NHRA Top Fuel drag racer Bob Vandergriff Jr., and now that time has come.

In a surprise move, Vandergriff will step down as driver for his team after this season and solely serve as owner for the two-dragster operation beginning next season, according to NHRA.com, .

Vandergriff will promote three-time Top Fuel world champ and 62-race winner Larry Dixon from a part-time role this season back to full-time competition for the first time in three seasons in 2015.

And in yet another surprise move, Vandergriff has selected veteran Pro Stock driver Dave Connolly to take his own place behind the wheel of the other 325-mph Bob Vandergriff Racing Top Fueler.

Connolly, who is currently third in the Pro Stock rankings (51 points behind series leader Jason Line) with two races remaining, has won 25 races in that class since he started competing in 2003.

“It’s no secret that I’ve been planning on exiting the driver seat,” Vandergriff told NHRA.com. “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.”

Vandergriff is completing his 21st season in the Top Fuel ranks, with three career wins and 17 final round appearances. He began in 1994 and won Rookie of the Year honors that season.

Connolly is thrilled at the new direction of his racing career.

“I’ve never really thought about driving Top Fuel, mainly because the opportunity wasn’t there,” Connolly told NHRA.com. “When Bob approached me, it really sparked my interest.

“Top Fuel is the fastest car on the planet. I’ve driven everything else, so I’m up to the challenge.

“I’ve been driving a Pro Stock car or working on one since 2003; it’s what I have lived. It’s going be hard to step aside from all that and the people I’ve worked with but at the same time, it’s a great opportunity for my future in drag racing.”

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Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images
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Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry.

The idea of Hamilton attending the season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it only would be fitting if Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — spent some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).