Don Prudhomme recalls 2000, looks to 2001

How much fun was it for you to be inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame as a driver and then as an owner see both of your teams finish in the top three in the championship race? Prudhomme: Well it was quite enjoyable. It was a major deal...

How much fun was it for you to be inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame as a driver and then as an owner see both of your teams finish in the top three in the championship race?

Prudhomme: Well it was quite enjoyable. It was a major deal there in Talladega. I remember when Wally Parks was inducted and I never dreamed that I would be there as well. Anytime you gain the recognition of your peers, especially to have the racing world recognize you as one of the guys who fathered the sport, it's all a person can ask for. I wish I had the time to really enjoy it, but I am very busy now making sure that the success continues with our race teams and that everything falls into place. Talladega really was a highlight for me and I don't think it can get much better than that. As far as the Top Fuel team goes, it was our first full year with Dick LaHaie tuning and quite frankly I think he did a marvelous job. The car ran well and he put together a great team and organization. Obviously we would like to have won more races, but last season was a lot more fun and finishing third in the points is not too shabby. As far as what to look for, LaHaie and the team will spend the winter putting together the new cars and work on trying to step up the performance for next season. Also, I have never been happier with Larry as a driver than I was this season. He did a better job driving last season and has worked harder than any other year and I think that his relationship with LaHaie has really helped him accomplish a lot.

Most people know you have a great personal relationship with Larry Dixon. How difficult was it to watch his accident in Memphis late last season?

Prudhomme: Obviously Memphis was a tough weekend for us all. First, to see Tony Schumacher suffer the most terrifying accident I have ever seen, then turn around the next day and see Larry's accident right in front of our faces was truly terrifying. You hate to see that happen to any driver, no matter who it is. It makes you realize just how serious this sport is and brings reality into check. It makes us look at the things that we are doing now with the safety of the cars and what we need to look at in the future. As long as I have been doing this, it has always been in the back of my mind that those kinds of things can happen. That's one of the reasons why I am there at the track all the time. Our sport isn't like other forms of racing where you usually see someone bang the wall or get clipped in the front or rear end. In drag racing the accidents are usually much more spectacular. That's why we have to take every precaution possible to make sure that our cars are built well. But you know our drivers are pretty tough too. The first thing Larry said to me after that accident was "Did we win?" That was a relief for me know that the kid was okay. It was a tough time, but once everyone knew he was all right, it was time to tighten up the seatbelt and go after it again.

The NHRA celebrates its 50th anniversary this season. Do you ever find yourself thinking about how much the sport has changed when you are at the track?

Prudhomme: Every time I go out there. Every time I go to the starting line and I see the quality of cars, the quality of the facilities, quality of the tracks, the hospitality, the quality people all around and the overall image of the sport. It is an honor and a privilege to be a drag racer. Young kids like Dixon, Capps and Tommy are proud as punch to be a driver. Now days they can go out and talk to their neighbors and they will know all about them as well as the sport. When I came up, our neighbors would look at us like we were Hell's Angels. The sport has really changed dramatically over the years and I am proud to be a part of it.

How soon until Snake Racing opens its new race shop in Indianapolis and what impact will that have on the teams?

Prudhomme: I am excited about the new shop. It is something that we have been contemplating for a while. We have always had different shops in different parts of town, but I always wanted to get the teams under one roof in a place that was big enough that they wouldn't be bumping around into each other, so it is something that I am looking forward to. Our new shop is another example of how much the sport has grown over the past 50 years. When you are trying to keep pace with guys like John Force, Kenny Bernstein and the Jeg's guys, it takes quality cars and quality facilities. I think this will help our operation run more smoothly and also show our sponsors our level of commitment. As far as a completion date, similarly to building a house or with any kind of construction, there can be delays. Weather permitting, I expect to see the shop finished near the end of February and would like to see us moving in equipment in March. That would be our game plan.

Explain your reasoning for the third car and how do you think a second funny car will not only help Capps' Funny Car team, but help Dixon's Top Fuel team as well?

Prudhomme: My thought in the early going was that having both a dragster and a funny car team would help because they could bounce ideas off of each other. There are similarities between dragsters and funny cars and some ways that they can help each other, but not as much as if we had two identical cars. For the funny car to be as successful as it can be, we decided that we needed another car. I think that we will also look at adding another Top Fuel car in the near future as well. If you look at NASCAR or any other form of racing, it is almost mandatory now for a team to have another team car to run with. I believe that we can be a strong force in funny car this year because the two teams will share the same sponsor and will both have quality drivers. I am not sure how much the second funny car will help Larry and the Top Fuel team directly, but the added funny car team allows us to build a nice facility for all the teams to share, so that's a benefit that will pay back to the other teams.

How has your relationship been with Miller Brewing Company as you enter your seventh year together as partners in drag racing?

Prudhomme: I am very happy with the relationship we have built with Miller over the past seven years and their commitment to drag racing. I think the next five years will be even better with the new programs and the new management team at NHRA working with us. Miller is really on our side and that is shown with all the promotions they put together for us. They really get behind us, back us up and show their support. We have a great group of distributors that we work with and they are great people. That is what it's all about. Just like us, Miller is fighting to be No. 1 and I think that we are both on our way to getting there.

What do you do during the short off-season? No one can think about work 24 hours a day, 365 days a year?

Prudhomme: I do! Really, I don't do too much. I piddle around the house with projects. I am building a guesthouse right now and we are building the shop in Indy, so that's taking up a lot of my time right now. Those kinds of things are really fun for me because I get my kicks watching projects like that grow. I also like to ride my motorcycles and will occasionally take a weekend trip to Mexico, but for the most part my life really is pretty well built around racing.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Larry Dixon , Kenny Bernstein , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Don Prudhomme , Dick LaHaie