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‘The Snake’ Shines In Desert

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, May 5 2018

Legendary drag racer Don ‘The Snake’ Prudhomme completed his 1,000-mile cruise through the Mexican desert.

RacinToday.com

After a 50-year delay, drag racing legend Don “The Snake” Prudhomme found redemption in the desert by finishing the grueling, five-day Yokohama NORRA Mexican 1,000.

The four-time NHRA Funny Car champion from California and co-driver Shane Chatwell of Canada drove to a 10th-place finish in the Stock Turbo UTV class of the rally sanctioned by the National Off-Road Racing Association (NORRA).

“It was a hell of a run, I can tell you that,” said Prudhomme, whose JEGS  2018 Polaris RZR 1000 was prepped by P.J. Jones of PJ’s Performance in Scottsdale, Ariz. “It was a thousand miles worth of trails, dirt roads, rocks, boulders and massive dust clouds. You name it, we saw it in the desert. It was unbelievable. Just to make it to the finish line is an achievement. It was just a hell of an experience and I can’t even really put it into words how tough it was.”

Prudhomme _ who turned 77 in April _ drove 1,100 of the 1,300 mile-course (including transitions and connecting roads) and crossed the finish line with a total time of 29:28:06. The rookie off-road competitor was just three minutes behind his nearest competitor.

Cars, trucks, UTVs and motorcycles all saw the checkered flag after a journey that took competitors from Ensenada to San Jose Del Cabo. The sense of relief and accomplishment was evident when Prudhomme described some of his on-course adventures.

“We got hit and we hit other race cars,” Prudhomme said. “You just couldn’t see out there because the dust clouds were just massive. You had to drive at night and my co-driver saved my ass. We were racing full-speed using GPS and massive off-road lights. I have to thank JEGS and PJ Performance for making this happen. Getting the medal at the end is something I will cherish forever.”

In 1968, Prudhomme entered the Mexican 1000 Baja race in a Porsche-powered buggy built by racing innovator Tony Nancy and owned by actor/racer Steve McQueen. Shortly before the race, McQueen was forced to withdraw due to a movie conflict, so Nancy reached out to Prudhomme to fill the seat as co-driver. Prudhomme and Nancy had crossed paths during their successful drag racing careers. The buggy broke down early, although in retrospect Prudhomme called it a “blessing in disguise.”

“We didn’t have anything with us then,” Prudhomme said. “No gas. No support vehicles. Who knows if I would have even had a career? I could have wound up a pile of bones in the desert if we had started that race.”

Prudhomme, ranked No. 3 on the National Hot Rod Association’s list of “Top 50 Drivers,” helped define the sport of drag racing for more than four decades. When he stopped driving at the conclusion of the 1994 season, he had recorded four consecutive NHRA Funny Car world championships (1975-78), was the then-winningest nitro fuel racer in NHRA history with 49 victories (14 in Top Fuel, 35 in Funny Car), including seven wins at the prestigious U.S. Nationals at Indy, and had recorded the first five-second Funny Car run, a 5.98-second pass at the 1975 NHRA World Finals. His 5.63-second clocking at the 1982 U.S. Nationals, nearly two-tenths of a second quicker than anything before, still is considered among the greatest Funny Car passes ever. As a Top Fuel team-owner, Prudhomme oversaw an additional 63 victories before his retirement from NHRA.

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, May 5 2018
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