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Behind the Visor: Why Blake Alexander went back to Funny Car

Blake Alexander shocked the drag racing world when he announced his departure from Bob Vandergriff Racing to buy a Funny Car team. Here's why he did it.
20 Mar 2019
Jacob Sundstrom, NHRA National Dragster Associate Editor
Behind the Visor
Blake Alexander

Blake Alexander shocked the drag racing world when he announced his departure from Bob Vandergriff Racing. He later announced a big move: the purchase of Brian Stewart’s Funny Car operation. Alexander returned to Funny Car by qualifying for the field at the Magic Dry Organic Absorbent NHRA Arizona Nationals in Phoenix. He shared his thoughts on how he came to his decision to move back to the short-wheelbase category he made his Pro debut in. 

I really never knew what I was gonna do until I did it. I knew I was leaving a good car, but I just thought that the timing was right. It’s better to leave something while you’re doing well than to wait until it’s not going well. I made the decision, and one of the major deciding factors in it was when I sold my business in August. 

I knew I was going to do something at that point. I had the money and knew I needed to do something, whether it be investing it in myself or in the market or something. I figure there’s always a car, be it Funny Car or dragster or something available if you want to get one. I knew that the car I bought wasn’t running, and I knew that I would have the money to run it.

It definitely wasn’t as planned out or as premeditated as you might think it was, but I enjoy driving the Funny Car more than the Top Fueler. It’s just something I enjoy driving, and I think it’s a lot more challenging. I know they’re a lot harder to drive, and you can ask guys like J.R. Todd or Shawn Langdon, and they would agree. They told me the same thing this weekend in Phoenix. 

In every run down the track, something different happens in the car. As soon as you think you have the Funny Car figured out, it’ll do something different to get your attention. In the Top Fuel car, you really focus on smashing the gas and leaving, and then it goes straight down the track.

I really finalized the decision on Dec. 21. I called up Bob Vandergriff Jr., who I drove for last season, then called Tim Wilkerson, who helped me staff my team this season, to tell him I was no longer driving for BVR and that I was going to buy the team. I asked him if he would help me earlier in the month, this is before I finalized my decision, and he said no.

At that point, I told Wilk I was gonna figure out how to make it work, but I would prefer to have his help. And you know, like I said, I didn’t really want to do it myself because you have to have someone pretty intelligent on these cars to make it happen. Tim’s son, Daniel Wilkerson, had shown he knew what he was doing with this car in the past, too. I think the only thing he said was that I had big balls, and that he realized over time that I was serious about it. 

There’s a lot of different variables involved in owning your own Funny Car team, from getting all the parts to just the basic overhead. There are a lot of expenses, and I don’t think it’s scary necessarily, but I have good people around me, and learning this stuff while everyone watches isn’t exactly the easiest way to do it. At the same time, I think it’s the only way you can do it. 

My biggest, and long-time, sponsor Pronto Auto Service Centers thought I was crazy. But they already knew that, so it didn’t really affect them too much, and they added, you know, obviously that they were gonna do whatever with me. They were going to continue down the path. They’re believers in what I’ve done in the past, and they’ve been on board with me when I’ve driven other cars and for other people.

My wife was the same way. I had made a budget up and talked to her about everything. I did a spreadsheet analysis before and talked to a lot of the different people who give me parts and got an understanding of what my parts bills were going to be and how everything would shake out. Then, ultimately, you just make the decision and hope you’re right. 

We made the decision, and she told me that it felt right and that everything we’re doing was something she’s on board with.

This year, we want to qualify in the top half of the field, and then we wanna start climbing the ladder by winning one round at a time. We just need to learn how to win in this car. It’s kind of got a consecutive order, and it could all happen in one day or one weekend, but we have a pretty good understanding of what we need to do. Now, we just have to get out there and do it. — As told to Jake Sundstrom