SEMA News - July 2010
By Drew Hardin
Photo Courtesy Source Interlink Media Archives
Don “The Snake” Prudhomme announced his retirement in January, closing the book on a stellar drag-racing career that spanned nearly five decades.
In his 32 seasons as a driver, Prudhomme earned four consecutive Funny Car championships, 49 Top Fuel victories and two nearly undefeated seasons with his U.S. Army-sponsored Monza Funny Cars in 1975 and 1976. After getting out from behind the wheel in 1994, Prudhomme went on to spend 15 years as a race team owner, bringing his total championship tally to six and his national event win count to 112.
Harder to quantify in exact numbers is the impact Prudhomme had on drag racing as a business when he and Tom McEwen inked a then-groundbreaking sponsorship deal with Mattel in 1970. Not only did they pave the way for countless cross-promotional marketing and sponsorship opportunities to come, but their “Snake vs. Mongoose” match races generated tremendous excitement among racing fans. Plus, thousands of kids were introduced to the sport thanks to the HotWheels diecast versions of Prudhomme’s and McEwen’s Mopar Funny Cars.
All of this was ahead of Prudhomme when this photo was taken in 1961. Hot Rod magazine was writing a profile of “TV” Tommy Ivo (in the bow tie) and his monstrous four-engine dragster, and Petersen Publishing Company photographer Eric Rickman shot Ivo and Prudhomme on the set of Ivo’s television show, “Margie.” At the time, Prudhomme had put a successful car-painting career on hold to tour with Ivo as he campaigned this and other dragsters around the country.
It wouldn’t be long, though, before Prudhomme struck out on his own. Driving a dragster he bought from Ivo, he earned his first big win at the Bakersfield Top Fuel & Gas Meet in 1962.