The Silly Season crew chief merry-go-round finally got up to speed this week after days of rumor and speculation. Joe Barlam, who with Todd Okuhara had tuned Leah Pritchett’s Don Schumacher Racing dragster to a record-setting, race-winning machine, will return to Bob Vandergriff Racing in 2019 to work with Ron Douglas as a tuning tandem on the dragsters of Blake Alexander and rookie Jordan Vandergriff.
Barlam previously worked with Vandergriff in 2015, initially as a co-crew chief with Mike Guger on the C&J Energy dragster driven by Larry Dixon and then on the dragster driven by Pritchett through the team’s short 2016 run.
Neal Strausbaugh, who had been part of the tuning triumvirate on Jack Beckman’s DSR-fielded Infinite Hero Funny Car, is expected to take Barlam’s spot on the Pritchett-driven car. Strausbaugh worked for years with crew chief Mike Green [who joined Bob Tasca III Monday] on Tony Schumacher’s championship-winning Army Top Fueler so that looks like a good fit. John Medlen and Dean Antonelli will remain as crew chiefs for Beckman’s car.
Further announcements are expected on personnel on other DSR dragsters, perhaps pending the announcement of a sponsor for Tony Schumacher’s machine.
The big news still to come is the official announcement of a landing spot for national-record tuner Dave Grubnic, who, along with his entire crew, departed from the Stringer-operated Parts Plus team at the end of the 2018 season. Grubnic is reportedly heading to a multi-car team based in Brownsburg. Ind., supplanting the crew there, who is expected to move as a whole unit to another Top 10 team.