Back in 2003, the 49th running of the NHRA U.S. Nationals was shellacked with more than seven inches of rain over the course of the first five days of the event, leaving the Indianapolis Raceway Park looking more like the Florida Everglades than a dragstrip in Indiana. Just as they were forced to do this year, NHRA officials pulled the plug that year as racers and spectators sloshed through the mud with a far-from-promising forecast for the remainder of the event.
When everyone re-commenced the following Saturday, the sun was shining and the stands were enthusiastically packed. It was as though a full week had never elapsed. Soon though, the fans would get more excitement than they planned for and one racer would wish he’d just never come back for the continuation of the event.
Top Fuel racer Chris Vandergriff — the brother of longtime racer Bob Vandergriff — was attempting to punch his way into the race day field from his then-No. 23 spot when his eFans.com-backed dragster stood up nearly vertical and pirouetted in the air before crashing back to earth and tumbling down the race track. As far as we can recollect, this was the last time that a Top Fuel dragster “blew over” in any official form of competition.
Tony Schumacher won his third Indy that year and Tim Wilkerson scored his first in Funny Car, but no doubt, the sight of Vandergriff’s dragster horizontal to the racing surface and facing the starting line is the endearing image that fans recall of the 2003 ” Big Go”. Let’s hope this Indy redux is slightly less eventful.