Great Rivalries: Don Prudhomme vs Tom McEwen

August 24, 2009
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With their stretched, melty shapes, Funny Cars were the perfectly indicative automotive expression toward the end of a funny decade, the 1960s. On the American quarter-mile strip, these molded fiberglass hallucinations wobbled toward the finish line at mind-bending speeds. Veteran drag racer Tom McEwen saw huge potential in all this and enlisted toy company Mattel to back a pair of Funny Cars with Hot Wheels sponsorship. Already a successful Top Fueler, Don Prudhomme ran a 1970 Plymouth Barracuda in match races against McEwen's Duster. Prudhomme was called the Snake for his slinky stature and the way he uncoiled his car at the starting line. Because it was the only animal capable of handling a cobra, McEwen adopted the Mongoose moniker. Snake versus Mongoose did more than barnstorm the various Nationals: showmanship and professionalism increased in drag racing, and the sport reached new levels of exposure. The results were incredible. Driving a Chevy Monza, Prudhomme stormed through the 1975 NHRA Supernationals, becoming the first Funny Car driver to break the six-second barrier. Later, he was the first over 250 mph. By the time Prudhomme retired from racing in 1994, Funny Cars had surpassed 300 mph and the big rivalry was between Kenny Bernstein and John Force.


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