File this one under the “this is a shame and we did not see this coming” department: Bob Vandergriff has retired from NHRA effective immediately and as such, has shuttered the Bob Vandergriff Racing team that fielded two Top Fuel cars for Leah Pritchett and Dave Connolly in the NHRA Mello Yellow Drag Racing Series.
The drivers and all employees have been released from the team. Pritchett, a rising star in the NHRA world, won her first Wally earlier this year at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park.
The announcement comes following the death of Josh Comstock, C&J Energy Services chairman and CEO, in March (more here via FuelFix.com from the Houston Chronicle).
Vandergriff’s statement is below, via the official NHRA website:
“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. 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.
“I’ve missed a lot of things in my children’s lives over the years and the desire to spend more time at home with my family has weighed on me greatly the last few years and when combined with the struggles the oil and gas industry has been facing over the last 12-18 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 who played key roles in my career.”
Pritchett, who spoke of her desire to keep climbing mountains in an interview last year with NBC Sports, will now have to keep fighting and climbing after this setback.
She posted the following statement to her Facebook page below:
“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 phenom sport has to offer… coupled with my first Top Fuel win makes my time at BVR ultimately invaluable. Mike, I am grateful to have shared our first win together with Joe, and our ideal chemistry strong green team… And Dave, I’ve learned a lot as teammates in our short time… thanks for swapping practice trees from time to time and being the coolest. They say all great things must come to end, and this has been a short, but most epic run. The future is uncertain, and this is an all too familiar feeling, but THIS is where champions are made, when the highs are high and the lows are low… Thanks to everyone, especially the fans and followers that have stood behind US!!! Not sure when I’ll be hitting the track again, but if you know me… You know I won’t lift!!!”