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Reyes On Tour:

Don "The Snake" Prudhomme

story by Aaron Green, photos by Steve Reyes

Few personalities in drag racing have been as successful as Don “The Snake” Prudhomme over the years. Entering the 2004 drag racing season Prudhomme has over 40 years involvement in “the sport of sprint”.

Don Prudhomme was a young car painter in the late 1950’s when he joined the Road Kings car club from the Los Angeles area, and began attending drag races as a crew member for “T.V.” Tommy Ivo. Ivo and Prudhomme toured the United States in 1960 with Ivo’s 4 engined, Buick powered, “Showboat” tire smoker that thrilled drag racing fans from coast to coast. After learning the ropes of the sport from Ivo, one of the true pioneers of professional drag racing, Don Prudhomme began to work his way towards becoming one of the biggest names in the sport.

In 1962 Prudhomme picked up his first big victory in Top Fuel by taking the Smoker’s March Meet at Bakersfield, California. Then from mid 1962 through 1964 Prudhomme teamed up with Tom Greer and famed engine builder Keith Black to field the nearly invincible Greer, Black & Prudhomme Top Fueler. The car won nearly every event it ever entered on the west coast during that period. Prudhomme also won the first NHRA race he ever entered, the 1965 Winternationals at Pomona, California, where he won Top Fuel driving Roland Leong’s “Hawaiian”. That was his first NHRA victory in a long and storied driving career that saw him take a total of 35 NHRA Funny Car national event wins, along with 14 NHRA Top Fuel national event titles. In the mid to late 1970’s Prudhomme was a nearly unstoppable force in Funny Car action, winning four straight NHRA Funny Car World Championships (1975, 1976, 1977, & 1978). “The Snake” has won the prestigious NHRA U.S. Nationals an incredible 7 times as a driver. He was the first Funny Car driver to make a 5 second pass, and also was the first to top the 250 mile per hour mark in the quarter mile in a flopper.

Teaming up with his rival and off track friend Tom “The Mongoose” McEwen with their “Hot Wheels” team cars in the early 1970’s is what really launched “The Snake” into the “big time” of championship drag racing. Prudhomme had been called “The Snake” by west coast announcers for years because of his quick reflexes on the starting line. His rival McEwen, always the promoter, had started calling himself “The Mongoose” to help build a rivalry between the two, which in the end made them both, and Mattel Toys a lot of money.

Today Don “The Snake” Prudhomme is known to drag racing fans as a car owner as he fields the Miller Lite Top Fuel Dragster driven by two time NHRA World Champion Larry Dixon Jr., and a pair of Skoal backed nitro Funny Cars for team drivers Tommy Johnson Jr., and Ron Capps.

Now, through the lens of Hall of Fame photographer Steve Reyes, lets take a look at one of the true legends in the sport of championship drag racing, Don “The Snake” Prudhomme. CN

Looking for a classic drag racing photo of your favorite car or star? Chances are Steve Reyes has it. Or if you would like a professional photo shoot with your car, you can contact Steve Reyes via e-mail at