By Anthony Caruso III
The Capital Sports Report
Owner/Managing Editor/Sr. Writer
Dickie Venables, an assistant crew chief with Bob Tasca’s Funny Car in the NHRA Full Throttle Series, recently took time to do an interview with The Capital Sports Report. His interview is about his racing career.
TCSR: Why did you decide to get into racing?
DV: “I got into racing, because I grew up around it. My father used to race in the NHRA, especially in Funny Car and Top Fuel. I always had an interest in it. I had the opportunity to go racing when I graduated high school and I took it. That started to where I am now.”
TCSR: You have worked for many legends in the sport, including Shirley Muldowney, Don “The Snake” Prudhomme, Connie Kalitta, and Gary Ormsby. Could you talk about working for them?
DV: “The first opportunity that I had was with Shirley Muldowney back in 1982. The crew chief for her at the time was a friend of mine’s father. He was from the Houston area, as I was as well. He gave me the opportunity to work for Shirley. I worked for Shirley up until she had a major accident in Montréal. And at that time, I went to work with Gary Ormsby in 1984. After being out here for a while, I met Lee Beard, who was the crew chief for Ormsby’s car. Now, he’s out here working for Cruz (Pedregon). Once I was out here, I was fortunate to keep doing it. I met people along the way and was able to work for Dom Prudhomme, which was neat. I worked for him in the last year that he actually drove. I got to know Connie through working for Shirley’s crew chief, and I worked for Connie in 1994 and 1995. Again, I had met him earlier in my career and an opportunity came later.”
TCSR: You have been a crew chief of Top Fuel and Funny Cars. What one do you like working on more?
DV: “I would prefer working on a Funny Car. It is strange that I would say that, but much of my career early on was with the (Top Fuel) dragster. But the first crew chief opportunity that I had was with a Funny Car. That’s where I’ve had the most success, because that’s all that I’ve worked on, with the exception of working as a crew chief for Morgan Lucas. I’ve had more success and feel more comfortable with a Funny Car.”
TCSR: You joined John Force Racing in 2000. Could you talk about joining that legendary team?
DV: “I was approached by Bernie Fedderly (John Force Racing crew chief) in 1998 about potentially going to work for John (Force). He wanted me to go to work for them on Tony Pedregon’s car. John Medlen was the crew chief for Tony’s car at the time. He wanted me to work alongside John (Medlen) with Tony driving. That’s how I got started there.”
TCSR: Could you talk about being the assistant crew chief for the 2003 championship team driven by Tony Pedregon?
DV: “That was a high point in my career, as it was the first time in my career that I was associated with a team that won a championship. That was certainly something that I’ll remember forever.”
TCSR: Why did you decide to leave John Force Racing for the Pedregon Racing team in 2004?
DV: “Tony and I were both working for John Force at the time, and Tony wanted to start his own team and wanted myself to be the crew chief after being an assistant crew chief for several years. I wanted to be able to make all the calls, so I took the chance. The hardest part of being a crew chief is getting your foot in the door. I was able to do that, and Tony was going to be new as an owner. We had worked together at John Force Racing, and we thought it would be a good relationship going forward to stay together.”
TCSR: Could you talk about winning the 2007 championship with Tony Pedregon at Pedregon Racing?
DV: “That’s so far is the highlight of my career. In 2007, at that time, I was the crew chief and was making all the calls. I was able to help take a team from nothing to something, as we were able to win a championship.”
TCSR: After leaving Pedregon Racing, you worked for Al-Anabi Racing, where you worked with the guidance of team manager and former crew chief Allen Johnson. You worked on Del Worsham’s team, but now he has changed places from a driver to a crew chief with Alexis DeJoria’s team. How do you think he’s doing so far?
DV: “I think he’s doing a good job. It takes time when you put a new team together. It takes time for things to gel. I think I would have to give him an ‘A’ so far.”
TCSR: In 2010, you moved back to the Top Fuel dragster to work for Morgan Lucas Racing. It was the first time you worked on a Top Fuel in a long time, so did you have to change your mindset when you went back to that car?
DV: “It was the first time I had been back with a dragster since 1997, so I only worked there partially for a season. It was good to get back with the dragster and get the feeling on how they are running these days. They are very similar to running a Funny Car. I wish it would have lasted longer, but for some reason, it didn’t.”
TCSR: Last year, you joined Don Schumacher Racing for a time. Could you talk about working there?
DV: “I was approached by Don last year and he had a relatively new crew chief that he thought was capable of doing the job, but he wanted to bring in a veteran, like myself, to assist. When Don hired me, he was fairly confident that he would have another team for this year. He wanted me to crew chief the new team, but that ended up with nothing happening. I wasn’t privy to who would have been the driver of the 8th team or what happened with that idea. That’s when I left there.”
TCSR: After the Don Schumacher Racing departure, you returned to John Force Racing for a short time this year. Could you talk about that?
DV: “I was brought on to help with the Top Fuel dragster that his daughter Brittney is preparing to drive next season. And I helped put that program together and we did a couple of test sessions with her. Shortly after that, it worked out that I ended up with Bob Tasca’s team now.”
TCSR: Could you talk about making the switch from Force to Tasca’s, even when they are teammates under the Ford brand?
DV: “I’ve been here a short time, but I believe they have all the right people. I also think they have the right equipment to win. I was brought in to help with what they have here, but we’re in the early stages. Given a little bit of time, I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re in the winner’s circle soon and rack up multiple wins this season.”
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