VISTA, Calif. (Feb. 17, 2004) -- About to begin his 10th season as a team owner, Don "the Snake" Prudhomme is nearing another milestone in his illustrious racing career. Prudhomme, who was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame...
VISTA, Calif. (Feb. 17, 2004) -- About to begin his 10th season as a team owner, Don "the Snake" Prudhomme is nearing another milestone in his illustrious racing career. Prudhomme, who was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2000, enters the 2004 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series season four wins shy of the century mark. The Southern California native amassed 49 victories as a driver (35 Funny Car/14 Top Fuel) and has since gathered another 47 wins as a team owner (33 Larry Dixon, 13 Ron Capps and one Tommy Johnson Jr.). In this Q&A, the drag racing icon discusses his desire to see his Skoal Racing Funny Cars win races, has passion for the sport of drag racing and his 100th career victory.
Q: Can you believe this will be your 10th season as a team owner?
PRUDHOMME: I don't know if it feels like it's been 10 years but it certainly feels like a long time since I've driven a car. I don't know if I miss it. I used to dream about it a lot an, every so often I still have dreams where I'm driving. I had one dream not long ago and I was driving a dragster and I was in the staging lanes and I was nervous about it. I was kind of nervous towards the end of my career before I quit. In the dream, I got that nervous feeling and Larry (Dixon) was standing there and I said, 'You drive.' Then I woke up. So, the only time I think about driving is in my dreams. I'm having the time of my life right now. I just really, really like what I'm doing and I wouldn't trade it for driving again. It's cool being an owner.
Q: How fortunate have you been to have loyal sponsors like Miller and Skoal?
PRUDHOMME: Just pick up the phone and try to get a sponsor then you'll know how tough it is. I really appreciate the support they give us. It's a great feeling. We've built some good relationships with them. Nothing makes me feel better than at the end of the day calling a sponsor and telling them we won the race. It's a great feeling. When someone gives us a dollar bill, we like to give them $1.20 or a $1.50 back if we can. We like to give them their money's worth.
Q: What is your outlook heading into the 2004 season?
PRUDHOMME: To try and get our Funny Cars where they belong. It's the same championship team with the dragster, Dixon, (Dick) LaHaie, Donnie Bender, all the same guys are together on that team. They've already won two World Series. We're trying to accomplish that with the Funny Cars now. We obviously want the dragster to win a third title, but our goal is to get the Funny Cars turned around.
Q: Has your passion for the sport remained as strong as a team owner?
PRUDHOMME: I'm positive it has, but in a different sort of way. When I was driving and tuning, there were certain things I could control. Now, you rely on drivers and crew chiefs and the race teams not making any mistakes and being the very best they can be. So, it's a lot different. I still have a passion for the sport. I want to win. It's still there, every bit as much.
Q: Do you feel that NHRA POWERade Drag Racing is headed in the right direction?
PRUDHOMME: Yeah, I do. I think people like myself and NHRA want to see it grow faster and faster, especially with POWERade on board. They're really doing a hell of a job. We thought Winston would be hard to replace because they were great people, but POWERade is really holding up their end of it and we're glad to have them on board.
Q: You've raced in both nitro categories (Top Fuel and Funny Car). Which do you enjoy watching more?
PRUDHOMME: I like Top Fuel every bit as much as Funny Car. I won some championships in Funny Car. We ruled for quite a few years and that's where we did our best, so I lean towards the Funny Cars in that respect. But as far as watching them, there's nothing like standing behind a Top Fuel car and see it disappear off into the distance. They're pretty damn exciting.
Q: What are your thoughts as you near 100 career victories?
PRUDHOMME: Let's get it over. I'd like to see it happen. I really don't think in those terms. It's more of a personal goal. I don't have a personal goal as far as what number I'd like to end up with because when the 100th comes, I'd like to see 120, 130, 140 and 150. I never thought I'd win 10 races or 20 races or 50 races, so it will be cool. It's a pretty good milestone.