Snake Racing: Don Prudhomme questions and answers VISTA, Calif. (Feb. 1, 2005) -- Forty years ago, a youthful, intense 23-year-old from Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley captured the first of what would be 49 career NHRA victories when he powered...
Snake Racing: Don Prudhomme questions and answers
VISTA, Calif. (Feb. 1, 2005) -- Forty years ago, a youthful, intense 23-year-old from Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley captured the first of what would be 49 career NHRA victories when he powered Roland Leong's Hawaiian dragster to earn the title at the 1965 Winternationals. Fast forward four decades and that young kid is now 63-years-old and as intense to win drag races as he's ever been. He enters the 45th running of the CARQUEST Auto Parts Winternationals, Feb. 10-13, with 98 career victories (49 driver/49 team owner) and six NHRA championships (four driver/two team owner) to his credit. The 2005 season will be Don Prudhomme's 11th as a team owner as he'll oversee his two-car effort compete for race wins and NHRA POWERade championships. In this Q&A, the Snake gives his thoughts on fielding two cars in '05, the ups-and-downs of drag racing, what keeps him motivated to continue racing, along with reminiscing on his first career victory.
Q: What are your thoughts heading into the 2005 season and how do you feel about the two-car team this season with Larry Dixon and Tommy Johnson Jr.?
PRUDHOMME: I feel pretty good about this year. We had a rough year last year, but I think we're a lot more organized with going to one Funny Car and having all the guys focus on the one car. The way the dragster finished off last year running 4.51 (seconds) on its final pass, and with some of the new things they're doing on the car this year, I'm excited.
Q: Are you eager to get the 100th win over with?
PRUDHOMME: I really haven't even thought about it. I'm eager to get both cars back into the winner's circle.
Q: You've been through the ups-and-downs of drag racing having spent more than five decades in the sport. How tough was last year on you?
PRUDHOMME: It ranks right up there with one of those really tough years. Believe it or not, I've experienced years that were worse, but we're looking forward to 2005.
Q: Did you learn anything from the 2004 season?
PRUDHOMME: You're always learning from drag racing. You can never stop learning with this sport.
Q: How important to the success of DPR are loyal sponsors like Miller Brewing Co., U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co., Lucas Oil and Raybestos?
PRUDHOMME: Without them, we can't do this. Without our partners like Miller, Skoal, Lucas Oil, Chevrolet and Raybestos, we don't get to go drag racing.
Q: Do you miss driving or do you enjoy the backseat role as an owner?
PRUDHOMME: I haven't missed driving for some time now. There's a lot more as an owner, behind the scenes, that keeps me very busy. I've got all the pressure I need as an owner.
Q: What keeps you motivated to stay involved in drag racing?
PRUDHOMME: Fear of poverty. And to win races and championships.
Q: Next month's 45th annual Winternationals marks the 40th anniversary of your first career NHRA win when you drove Roland Leong's Hawaiian dragster. What did that win mean to you?
PRUDHOMME: I didn't even know it was 40 years until you told me. I'm not much into statistics and all that stuff. God, it's been 40 years? It really had a whole lot to do with my success. That's what really got me and Roland Leong and the Hawaiian going. The amount of publicity we got from winning the race afforded us to go on tour around the country for people to see us and get to know us. It was huge. It really launched my career along with Roland's and Keith Black's; he was the tuner of the car.
Q: Does racing at Pomona Raceway still mean as much today as it did years ago since there are so many races on the NHRA schedule?
PRUDHOMME: The whole sport has changed. At one time there were just a few races and Pomona was one of them. I believe in '65 that Pomona and Indy were the only two and we won both of them that year, and growing up in Southern California, it means a lot. It's really our home track. I remember the first chance we got to run there when NHRA allowed nitromethane, before that they were just running gas in those days. That was a big deal.