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Drag Racing vs. NASCAR? Drag Racing Wins

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Working in the engine shop at one of the most successful race teams ever should give a person a pretty solid understanding of what makes cars go fast.  That’s exactly the advantage Robert Vogler, III has over the other drivers in Top Dragster as they compete for the Ironman Trophy, the $15,000 championship prize and maybe even a vacation on the island of Aruba that comes with winning the inaugural International Hot Rod Association (IHRA) Summit Sportsman National Championship. 

Vogler, a North Carolina native and resident, works in the engine shop at NASCAR team Richard Childress Racing in Welcome, N.C., a short drive from his home in Lewisville.  During the week, he’s in charge of the valve springs for all the engines built at the home of the late Dale Earnhardt’s team – they could have as many as 200 engines ready to go at one time – that’s a lot of valve springs. 

“When the valve springs come in, I rate them, put a color code on them and ship them out to an assembly room – I do valve springs for all of the engines,” Vogler said.  “All together, we have about 175-200 engines in that complex – it’s insane.  You walk through the front two halls and the back one, all you see is engines lined up with tags saying where they go.  We have three Cup teams, five Xfinity teams, and we lease engines to a bunch of teams.”

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After building engines for NASCAR race cars during the week, Vogler focuses on his first love on weekends – Drag Racing.   

“I’ve been racing for about 12 or 13 years,” Vogler said.  “I started out in Junior Dragster and won four championships – two at Piedmont Dragway (In Julian, N.C.) and two at Rockingham (N.C.) Dragway, and I won another championship in Top Eliminator at Farmington Dragway so I have five overall.  In the juniors, I have about 60 wins, and in big cars, this is my fourth year, and it’s definitely been a learning curve.  I’ve won about four or five races and that one track championship.  I’m learning something new each weekend, and these guys are ruthless.  But that’s how I like it – I don’t want a ‘gimmie.’”

And every time Vogler races this season, his focus is not only on win lights but also what would be waiting for him if he’s fortunate enough to win the Top Dragster title in the Summit Sportsman National Championship.

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 “It’s big for us that Summit is offering $15,000 for the champion in each of the classes,” Vogler said.  “Nobody’s done that for a long time – not since the ‘good ‘ole days.’  For them to really step up and go after it means a lot, and I can’t thank them enough for doing that for us. If I’m fortunate enough to win the championship and that trip to Aruba, I’d give the trip to my Mom and Dad.  They’ve bent over backwards for me to let me race.  They’ve given me all the tools – everything I’ve needed to be successful; they deserve it more than I do so I’d send them down there and let them go on a vacation.

“My goals?  I’d love to run Pro Mod one day if the opportunity was there.  I don’t think I’d be able to do it on my dime, but I’d love to win a World Championship in Top Dragster. 

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“If the opportunity to be a pro racer was there, I would definitely want to give it a shot – I wouldn’t say no.  I’ve thought about racing Stock Cars, too, and if that opportunity was there, I’d be more than happy to hop in a Cup car; those things are awesome.”

But what if opportunities came along in drag racing and NASCAR at the same time?  “If I had a great opportunity in NASCAR and a great opportunity in Drag Racing, I’d have to stick with Drag Racing.  That’s where my heart is; there’s more money on the NASCAR side, but I’ve been in drag racing my whole life – I couldn’t turn that one down.”

 

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