ROOKIE A/FUEL PILOT JORDAN VANDERGRIFF SEES THE BIG PICTURE
If you're going to dream; dream big.
At least this is how Jordan Vandergriff sees it.
Jordan, the 22-year old newly licensed A/Fuel Dragster driver, doesn't remember sitting in his uncle Bob Vandergriff's Top Fuel dragster for the first time back in 1998. However, he remembers grabbing "seat time" in his Uncle's dragster every opportunity he could while growing up.
Now he has the opportunity to get all he wants, or at least this is where his future appears headed.
"I came to the track and watched my uncle race the car, and it was always like what my uncle did, and what our family was involved in," Jordan explained. "I was young, growing up, and then one day I was around, I must have been 18, 19, I’ve been thinking about this for a few years now. And I thought, ‘You know what, I’ve grown up, I’ve always looked up to my uncle. He’s been my role model, and I’ve always wanted to be like him.
"The opportunity was there, and I felt like I needed to seize the opportunity for myself and see if I could do it. I wanted to do it, and this is what I want to do, and I want to be a great driver and do it for a very long time."
Jordan made seven runs behind the wheel of Anthony DiCero's A/Fuel dragster to accrue his credentials, completing the process with a 5.39 elapsed time at 272 miles per hour.
While performance in a A/Fueler is a major step toward Top Fuel, he's in no hurry to climb to the top of the drag racing food chain.
"Definitely a big step but there’s no rush toward anything like that," Jordan confirmed. "Top Fuel’s always been a dream of mine watching my uncle growing up. So, we’ll see if I can get there one day."
Jordan has been a quick study to this point, with his only in car drag racing experience before A/Fuel Dragster being a course at the Frank Hawley drag racing school.
Hawley, the two-time NHRA Funny Car champion turned drag racing school instructor, schooled the absolute rookie from his baby steps in a Super Comp dragster to the increased challenge of an injected-nitro dragster.
Jordan admits there was a level of initial intimidation in working from no experience to the highest level of Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series competition.
"Especially going the first day to Frank Hawley’s, I was definitely nervous because I had never been in the car or anything like that before," Jordan admitted. "I knew that I would have to start from the ground up, and I was okay with that. I think that’s what calmed me down the most is understanding it was a gradual process from ground zero and I’m going to take it from there and reach the peak.
“From Super Comp to A/Fuel Dragster, a little intimidating because the controls were a little different. You don’t have the button, and you’re not revving it all the way up when you let off, the trans brake and all that stuff. I feel more comfortable in the A/Fuel car. I feel like it feels right for me growing up, you know, watching my uncle do it. I couldn’t wait to get in one of these things.
The one thing Jordan learned early is to expect the unexpected. However, when you're as green as he is, understanding what is not routine is not always easy.
In his first run in DiCero's dragster, the car broke a clutch disc.
"I slammed the throttle, and nothing really happened," Jordan explained. "I got out of the car, and I was like, ‘Is that how it’s supposed to feel? Because it didn’t feel great."
Jordan got the real deal on the next go-round with his half-track pass.
"It really kicked me in the butt and pushed me along down the track," Jordan conveyed.
Moments like this only confirm to Jordan what he already knows. He needs to take the time and learn something about the car he'ds driving before making the major leap into Top Fuel. He doesn't want just to drive; he wants to learn how to win.
"I want to get as comfortable as possible in one of these things. I want this to become second nature before I even think about getting in a Top Fuel car," Jordan said. "I know that’s the end goal one day, but I am in absolutely no rush, no rush to get there. In time I’ll be there."
The plan with Bob Vandergriff Racing is to give one full year at least in A/Fuel Dragster before considering the big show.
"I’m in no rush. I’m very humbled by the car. The car humbles you," Jordan confirmed.
While spoken like a veteran, these are albeit words from a rookie.