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‘The Snake’ Basks After Dash The Through Desert

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, May 8 2019
Co-drivers Jagger Jones and Don ‘The Snake’ Prudhomme made it to the finish line in their 1,300-mile dash through the Mexican desert.

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Drag racing icon Don “The Snake” Prudhomme and teen-aged co-driver Jagger Jones turned an all-night thrash into a checkered flag finish in the NORRA Mexican 1000, where their unofficial 16th place result felt like a victory.

“It’s a thrill to finish,” Prudhomme, 78, said in Vista, Calif., after he and Jones overcame a fuel pump issue on the final leg of the 1,300-mile trek. “What I like so much about this NORRA race is when you cross the finish line, they treat you like a winner. You are a winner when you finish this NORRA 1000 race. Everybody celebrates. The camaraderie here is great. It’s like nothing I have seen before.

“What’s so cool is there’s no money for the winner. You get a trophy. It takes me back to the early days when I just started racing and you just liked winning a trophy. It’s bragging rights here.”

The duo shared seat time in a JEG’S High Performance Mail Order and Lucas Oil sponsored 2019 Polaris RZR 1000 prepped by P.J. Jones, Jagger’s father, in the Stock Turbo UTV class. But heading into the final day of the race Prudhomme was not convinced they would make it out of the desert.

Don Prudhomme considered a 16th-place finish in Mexico a success.

“We had to make a decision in La Paz (Wednesday night) when we were working until about 2 in the morning,” Prudhomme said. “We were actually just going to put it on the trailer because we couldn’t find the problem. We didn’t want to be stuck out in the desert. That’s the worst. We decided that if we both drove it and took it easy we could finish the race. That’s what we did.”

Prudhomme and Jones took turns driving as fast as they could without taxing their two-cylinder engine, stopping regularly to top off the fuel tank.

“We nursed it home. Finishing is an accomplishment,” Prudhomme said. “There are cars on the side of the course, crashed and out of the race. We passed all kinds of cars on the last day. We passed Tanner Faust (Global RallyCross racer and X Games medalist). He was rolled over on his side.  He was OK or else we would have stopped to help him.  He just waved at us going by. Even big teams with professional racers can crash out in this thing. All day it looked like road kill on the side of the road with so many cars crashed or upside down.”

This marked the second time for both drivers to compete in the grueling event. “It was awesome. Don did a really good job driving,” said Jones, 16, a rising star in the NASCAR K&N Series. “I think I was the only one that had a flat tire. It was a really good experience. The NORRA race has a lot of history. It’s a real accomplishment to finish. Last year was awesome and this year racing with Prudhomme was super-cool.

“We had some car problems on the last day. We had to stop throughout the day it seemed like every 20-25 miles to fill the car up with fuel. We didn’t know if we were going to make it the last 25 miles. We were really happy to get to the finish line.”

Jagger’s father, PJ, is the son of Indianapolis 500 & Baja 1000 winner Parnelli Jones. PJ Jones has piloted Sprint Cars and Indy cars, NASCAR and various classes in the Baja 1000. He also is the founder and operator of PJ’s Performance, which specializes in performance suspensions and components for UTVs.

Ranked No. 3 on the National Hot Rod Association’s list of Top 50 Drivers, Prudhomme 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 quarter-mile pass during 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 team-owner, Prudhomme oversaw an additional 63 national event victories before his retirement from NHRA.

Prudhomme said he was re-energized by the collaboration with Jones, even catching glimpses of himself as a young racer. The experience has motivated Prudhomme for a possible return in 2020.

“Jagger is a mature kid and a professional already. I was just impressed with him as a race car driver,” Prudhomme said. “He might be 16 but he’s a professional. I’d look over at him and he has a helmet on just like me. It doesn’t matter if you are 16 or 80, when you put on that helmet and go race. I didn’t even think of him as a young kid. He was really cool. It made me pumped up and I’m thinking about doing it again.

“I loved doing it last year and then I thought doing it this year would be the last time. I’m so excited but the only way I would do it again is if I could race with Jagger again. I would want to really work at it. We’ll have to see.”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, May 8 2019
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