When it comes to drag racers, they don’t get much cooler than Don ‘The Snake’ Prudhomme. An American drag racing legend since the early 1960s, Prudhomme has done everything from race Funny Cars – in fact, he was the first funny car driver to exceed 250mph – to managing race teams, and has had his amazing career highlighted in numerous books and magazines, as well as a feature film in 2013!
An inductee into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, as well as the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America, Prudhomme’s name, has been synonymous with drag racing since his first professional win back in 1962 at the Smokers March Meet in Bakersfield. With 49 wins, Prudhomme is the sixth-winningest driver in NHRA history. (His resume also boasts an additional 59 victories as an owner.) He is also the second-winningest Funny Car driver in NHRA history, only behind John Force.
Although Prudhomme officially retired from the sport in 2010, the 74-year-old still keeps busy these days by spending time with his family and dogs, practicing landscaping, and of course, traveling to industry events. In January 2015, Prudhomme was on hand at the Barrett-Jackson auction in Scottsdale to watch as the 2007 Ford Shelby GT500 Super Snake Prudhomme Edition concept car crossed the auction block. (It went on to sell for a whopping $275,000!) A month earlier, he attended PRI with Tom “Mongoose” McEwen, his legendary drag racing rival.
We managed to “charm” Snake into sitting down with us for a few minutes to talk about his life, career and a few of the crazy things he’s seen on the drag strip over the course of his 50-plus years in the industry.
GG: You’ve seen a lot of drag racers over the course of your career. Who was the craziest?
Snake: John Force—of course!
GG: What do you count as the biggest win of your career?
Snake: The 1989 U.S. Nationals at Indy; I won the Bud Shootout, was low qualifier and won the race. It was a special weekend.
GG: Where would we find you on a Sunday?
Snake: Watching F1 or IndyCar races, or working on a project at my home.
GG: If you could own any car, what would it be?
Snake: An Enzo Ferrari!
GG: What’s your current daily driver?
Snake: A 1996 GMC pickup truck.
GG: Who is someone in the drag racing community that you really admire?
Snake: I really admired Wally Parks. I valued his vision and his friendship.
GG: You lived through the swingin’ ‘60s. What was the best part about that decade?
Snake: The front-engine nitro dragsters [were] the coolest part.
GG: Give us your thoughts on the future of professional drag racing.
Snake: [It’s] for the very few with a lot of money!
GG: What was the scariest crash you’ve ever witnessed?
Snake: Jim Nichol’s accident in the final round against me at the U.S. Nationals at Indy in 1970.
GG: Who would you choose to play you in a movie?
Snake: Jessie Williams, because he already did a great job playing me in [the 2013 movie] “Snake and Mongoose.”
GG: If you had an extra hour in the day, how would you spend it?
Snake: I’d spend it with my dogs.
GG: Where is your favorite place to visit?
GG: Do you have any regrets?
Snake: I may have a few, but too few to mention.
GG: If you hadn’t been a drag racer, what kind of job would you have gotten?
Snake: I never had a Plan B!
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