Don “the Snake” Prudhomme, one of the most accomplished drivers and revered team owners in the history of motorsports, announced his retirement today, ending a career spanning five decades in drag racing.
Prudhomme’s 47-year career featured him behind the wheel for 32 seasons before he retired from driving at the end of his 1994 Final Strike campaign. He then transitioned to the role of team owner. Overall, Prudhomme has an impressive combination of six NHRA world championships and 112 national event victories.
“I feel very fortunate to have been able to make a living in drag racing and to have enjoyed some success along the way,” said Prudhomme. “I would like to thank all of the great sponsors we’ve worked with over the years, everyone at NHRA, the many track owners, operators, and promoters, our past employees and team members, and all of the drag racing fans that have supported Snake Racing.”
Said NHRA President Tom Compton, "A true legend in the world of motorsports and one of NHRA's greatest ambassadors and champions, we wish Don 'the Snake' Prudhomme much health and happiness in his retirement. Throughout his nearly 50-year run in NHRA competition, Don elevated the sport with great professionalism, character, and an instinct for winning as one of the greatest drivers of all time and later as a prominent team owner.
"On behalf of everyone within the NHRA community, I want to offer our sincere thanks to Don for all he has done to help guide the sport. The NHRA will forever be extremely grateful for his undying passion, commitment to excellence, and long-term dedication to the sport."
About Don “the Snake” Prudhomme
Ask even the most casual of motorsports fans who the biggest name in drag racing is, and you are almost always sure to hear one name — Don “the Snake” Prudhomme. A true legend of the sport, Prudhomme, 68, concluded his 47th year in drag racing in 2009, his 15th season as an owner after logging 32 seasons behind the wheel as one of the sport’s elite drivers.
"Snake’s" remarkable driving career began in 1962 with his first Top Fuel victory at the Smokers March Meet in Bakersfield, Calif., and ended with 49 NHRA victories — the sixth-most in NHRA history — following his farewell Final Strike tour in 1994. Prudhomme reached the final 68 times, posting a remarkable 35 wins in 45 Funny Car finals (.777 win percentage) and 14 wins in 23 Top Fuel final rounds (.609 win percentage). Overall, he won 389 of 589 rounds of competition for a .660 win percentage.
Along the way, Prudhomme reached many important milestones and broke several barriers. He became the first driver to earn four consecutive NHRA world titles, won the prestigious U.S. Nationals seven times, was the first Funny Car driver to break the 250-mph mark (250.00 mph), was the first to post an elapsed time under 5.20 seconds (5.193), became the first to win seven of eight national events in one season (1976), was the first NHRA Winston world champion (1975), and was the first driver to win the U.S. Nationals and Winternationals in the same season (1965). At age 51, he became the third Top Fuel driver to pass the 300-mph mark (301.60), in 1993.
Off the track, Prudhomme gained notice in the early 1970s when Mattel released the “Mongoose" (Tom McEwen) and "Snake” Hot Wheels car sets, helping to introduce drag racing to a larger, more mainstream audience.
Prudhomme did not stop rewriting the NHRA record books despite leaving his role as a driver to become a multicar team owner. Wins by Larry Dixon (Top Fuel) and Ron Capps (Funny Car) at the 1998 Winternationals made “Snake” only the fifth owner in history to have cars in two categories earn titles at the season-opening event. Prudhomme’s Dixon-Capps tandem repeated at the 2001 Brainerd race, then again in 2002 near Columbus, Ohio.
The 2000 season included many highlights for Prudhomme. Dixon and Capps finished in the top three in the season standings, and Prudhomme was honored for his accomplishments as a driver with his induction into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in Talladega, Ala., with such other racing heroes as A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, and Aryton Senna. “Talladega really was a highlight for me, and I don’t think it can get much better than that,” said Prudhomme.
The 2001 season was one of the brightest for “the Snake” as an owner; Dixon finished just 95 points shy of giving Prudhomme his first championship as an owner. In the 2001 campaign, each of "Snake’s" drivers posted wins — Dixon had six, Capps two, and Tommy Johnson Jr. one; wins by Johnson in Las Vegas, Dixon in Gainesville, and Capps in Bristol gave Prudhomme three consecutive winning weekends.
During the 2002 season, "the Snake" watched Dixon power his Miller Lite Top Fuel dragster to nine victories en route to his first NHRA Full Throttle Top Fuel world championship and the fifth of Prudhomme’s career. In addition, Prudhomme was named the No. 3 driver in NHRA history by a panel of drag racing historians as NHRA celebrated its historic 50th anniversary season.
The 2003 NHRA season was another banner year for Snake Racing as Dixon drove his Dick LaHaie-tuned dragster to its second consecutive NHRA championship, winning eight races in 13 final-round appearances to earn the $400,000 championship bonus.
Prudhomme inched ever closer to his milestone 100th victory in 2004 as Dixon earned two victories, moving the legendary driver and owner to within two victories of the century mark. Dixon’s 35th win in August equaled drag racing icon “Big Daddy” Don Garlits for third on the all-time Top Fuel win list. Johnson also posted career-best performance marks in his blue Skoal Racing Chevy flopper at the season finale in Pomona.
The 2005 season for "Snake" included Johnson breaking an 89-race winless streak when he dusted the field to score at the Winternationals at historic Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Two months later, Prudhomme become just the third driver and owner in NHRA history to reach the 100-win plateau when Dixon triumphed at the spring Las Vegas event. Dixon added two more victories, including at the prestigious U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, to give the "Snake" 102 Wally trophies. Dixon’s third U.S. Nationals victory was Indy win No. 10 for Prudhomme, who won the Big Go seven times as a driver. Dixon raced to a second-place finish in Top Fuel, and Johnson’s sixth-place finish was a career best for the veteran Funny Car driver.
In 2006, Prudhomme enjoyed two more victories from Johnson and the Skoal Racing Funny Car team as well as a runner-up finish in the lucrative NHRA Showdown bonus event at the U.S. Nationals to finish the season sixth in the points standings. Dixon’s Top Fuel team reached one final round in the season, finishing seventh in the team’s final season with longtime sponsor Miller Lite. That brought “Snake’s” win total to 104 victories as a driver and owner. In 2007, Prudhomme fielded Johnson’s Skoal Racing Chevy Impala Funny Car, which doubled up with Dixon in Top Fuel as Snake Racing swept the Englishtown event. Dixon, who drove that season for SkyTel, also recorded wins in Chicago and Dallas to increase Prudhomme’s win total to 108.
For the 2008 NHRA season, Prudhomme guided Dixon in the U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co. Top Fuel dragster to five final rounds and two victories (Phoenix, Pomona 2) en route to a second-place finish in the season points standings; the two victories brought Prudhomme’s total win count to 110.
The 2009 NHRA Full Throttle campaign featured the debut of rookie driver Spencer Massey taking over the role as pilot of the U.S. Smokeless Racing dragster for Don Prudhomme Racing. Massey, the 2008 IHRA Top Fuel champion, reached five final rounds and collected his first NHRA Top Fuel win in Chicago and his second in Las Vegas (wins 111 and 112 for Prudhomme). At the end of the season, Massey was named the winner of the Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award as NHRA's rookie of the year. Prudhomme also teamed with Carroll Shelby as Shelby Autos announced the limited production of the Shelby Super Snake Prudhomme Edition GT 500. Motorbooks International also published Tom Madigan’s book: Mongoose vs. Snake – How a Rivalry Changed Drag Racing Forever.
Date of birth: April 6, 1941
Residence: Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.
Birthplace: San Fernando Valley, Calif.
Height/Weight: 6 feet, 1 inch/175 pounds
Hobbies: Dogs, fishing, golf, and landscaping
Career accomplishments and highlights
Career wins/final rounds (driver): 49/68 (35/45 FC, 14/23 TF)
Career wins/final rounds (owner): 63/128 (18/41 FC, 45/87 TF)
Career total victories: 112
Career No. 1 qualifying awards (driver): 58
Career No. 1 qualifying awards (owner): 40
First Professional victory (TF): Bakersfield March Meet (1962)
First NHRA victory (TF): Pomona 1 (1965)
First NHRA victory (FC): Indianapolis (1973)
Best points finish (driver): First (1975-78 FC)
Best points finish (owner): First (2002-03 TF)
Career-best elapsed time (TF): 4.736 (Reading 1994)
Career-best elapsed time (FC): 5.157 (Dallas 1989)
Career-best speed (TF): 302.72 (Brainerd 1994)
Career-best speed (FC): 279.67 (Reading 1989)
• 49 victories (driver)
• 63 victories (owner)
• Eighth-winningest driver in NHRA history (49 wins)
• Fourth-winningest Funny Car driver in NHRA history (35 wins)
• Four NHRA championships as a driver
• Two NHRA championships as an owner
• 1989 NHRA Showdown winner
• Three NHRA Showdown wins as team owner (Ron Capps, 1998-99, 2002)
• Three NHRA Shootout wins as team owner (Larry Dixon, 1995, 2001-02)
• First member of Cragar Five-Second Club (FC, 5.98 seconds, Oct. 12, 1975, Ontario, Calif.)
• First member of Crane Cams Funny Car 250-mph Club (250.00 mph, May 29, 1982, Baton Rouge, La.)
• 15th member of Cragar 4-Second Club (TF, 4.980 seconds, Feb. 2, 1991, Pomona)
• Third member of Slick 50 300-mph Club (301.60 mph, March 6, 1993, Houston)
• First NHRA driver to win in both Top Fuel (1965 Pomona) and Funny Car (1973 Indy)
• Second NHRA driver to qualify No. 1 in both Top Fuel (1965 Pomona) and Funny Car (1970 Ontario)
• One of three driver/owners (John Force and Warren Johnson) to have reached 100 wins
• Still holds the NHRA record with seven consecutive Funny Car national event victories (1975-76)
• Still holds the NHRA record with 30 consecutive Funny Car round-wins (1976-77)
• Still holds the NHRA record with 13 consecutive Funny Car final-round appearances (1975-77)
• Still holds the NHRA record with eight consecutive Funny Car final rounds to start a season (1976)
• Shares the NHRA record at seven consecutive Funny Car No. 1 qualifying positions (1976-77)
• No. 8 all-time with 52 NHRA No. 1 qualifying efforts