With a retro look that is 50 years old, the reigning NHRA Funny Car champion honors racing great Don “The Snake” Prudhomme.
One notable run by a young Top Fuel driver in the early 1960s stands out among the many records and significant moments in drag racing history. From June 1962 to May 1963, Southern Californian Don Prudhomme won an impressive 81 rounds with just eight rounds lost.
He was the driver of the Greer-Black-Prudhomme Top Fuel dragster, and together with his squad, they wreaked havoc at drag strips all throughout California, with one detour to Texas.
Despite his success with dragsters, Prudhomme added Funny Car to his lucrative racing business by the end of the 1960s and established the “Snake and Mongoose” reputation for Mattel Hot Wheels, which became one of the most recognizable teams in drag racing history.
The two teamed up in 1970 and manufactured a pair of Funny Cars as part of a sponsorship arrangement with Mattel Hot Wheels on the recommendation of a devoted friend, Tom McEwen. McEwen took adopted the title of “The Mongoose,” whilst Prudhomme became known as “The Snake.”
The pair’s prominent status in the annals of the sport was solidified by their renowned rivalry and the toy product lines that followed. It was a huge chance for sponsorship, demonstrating that drag racing could draw businesses from outside the performance aftermarket sector.
Over the course of his 35-year career as a racer, Prudhomme won four NHRA championships. In 1994, he transitioned into team ownership full-time and won two more championships with Larry Dixon as his driver in the Top Fuel eliminator.
The turning point in Prudhomme’s Funny Car career may have occurred during his performance in the 1973 NHRA US Nationals. Despite investing a lot of time and effort in the category, he had never been successful in NHRA competition with the flopper.
It should be remembered that there were many fewer opportunities for national events during this time period. However, Prudhomme did triumph in his Top Fuel Dragster at the 1970 US Nationals. Who was his Funny Car driver in that year? Jay Howell, though, is a different story for another time.
During the biggest and most famous event of the year, the NHRA U.S. Nationals held at Indianapolis Raceway Park, the NHRA Funny Car dry spell was broken in 1973. Prudhomme defeated Ed “The Ace” McCulloch in the championship round with his Plymouth Barracuda Funny Car.
Prudhomme not only defeated the reigning event champion, but he also established the national mark with a 6.35, qualified first, and ran the fastest Funny Car pass in history with a 6.27.
In honor of the 69th NHRA U.S. Nationals, Ron Capps, the defending NHRA Funny Car champion and a former driver for Prudhomme, unveiled a special design for his Funny Car. He would recreate The Snake’s 1973 U.S. Nationals entry with his championship-winning Toyota GR Supra body in order to commemorate the event’s 50th anniversary.
On the Friday of Labor Day Weekend, the vehicle was unveiled at a special press briefing. Prudhomme then climbed into the driver’s seat to warm up the 11,000-HP supercharged Hemi. They won honors for Best Appearing Car and Best Appearing Crew thanks to their outstanding design and coordinated crew attire.
The winning streak continued as Capps came in second place in the unique Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge. As a result of his accomplishment, he received a total of 14 extra points throughout the season series, making him the Funny Car driver with the highest point total over the challenges that began in Phoenix and ended in Indy.
Although the tiny battle was noteworthy, the team didn’t lose sight of the bigger goal—winning on Monday.
At Indianapolis, extra qualifying runs necessitate both mental toughness and a large parts supply in the trailer. After five rounds of qualifying, the team’s 3.917 at 328 mph effort earned them a fifth-place finish.
Capps started his journey to victory lane by defeating Dale Creasy Jr. with a fantastic 3.894 at 326 mph. Capps advanced from a quarterfinal matchup with Matt Hagan after a slip-and-slide fight that lasted 4.58 seconds for him.
Hagan forced his way through with a 5.14 in the 1,000-foot race. A much stronger performance came in the semifinal matchup with Robert Hight, where Capps unleashed a 4.029 to move to the championship round.
In the championship round, Capps faced off against JR Todd, who had previously put together three steady runs in the DHL-sponsored Toyota GR Supra Funny Car.
Todd used a combination of lightning-fast reaction times and explosive speed on the opposite end to run 3.913, 3.974, and 4.007 to qualify for the U.S. Nationals final. With a.032 light to Todd’s.057 at the start of the finals, it was all Capps.
He maintained his lead all the way to the finish line with a 3.986 to his opponent’s 4.131. Capps would succeed in achieving the goal—winning the U.S. Nationals while displaying The Snake’s most recognizable Funny Car.