Petersen Automotive Museum is celebrating the opening of the exciting new exhibit, NHRA: Sixty Years of Thunder by paying tribute to one of the sport’s most iconic figures – Don “The Snake” Prudhomme – during their annual Tribute Night on Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2010.
NHRA: Sixty Years of Thunder
This exciting new exhibit will cover the history of the National Hot Rod Association, from its early creation as a way to get street racing off of the public highways and on to sanctioned drag strips, through six decades of nitro, tire smoke and thunder. Guests will have an experience rich with historic photography, exciting videos, interactive displays and of course, race cars with the combined power output of 50,000 horses! See how this sport literally grew from the first dragster (a 10-foot long car known as “Bug”) up to Kenny Bernstein’s record setting 300 MPH Top Fuel Dragster with an incredible length of 32-feet! Learn how Super Stock cars like the 1963 Plymouth called “Melrose Missile” helped shape the musclecar movement, and how altering a vehicle’s wheelbase for weight transfer led to creation of the “Funny Car”. Experience a 3D snapshot in time in a diorama featuring the famous Stone, Woods, and Cook 1941 Willys Gasser as it sits ready to leap when the light turns green. Dragsters, Funny Cars, Alterds, Gassers, Pro Stock, Super Stock, and drag bikes will all be on display. NHRA: Sixty Years of Thunder was created with assistance by the National Hot Rod Association and the NHRA Museum. This exhibit opens at the Tribute Night and runs through May 29, 2011.
Match Race Madness Panel Discussion
The events on November 10 will begin with the 2 p.m. panel discussion, Match Race Madness, featuring drag racing’s greatest rivalry: Snake vs. Mongoose. Prudhomme will be joined by arch-rival Tom “The Mongoose” McEwen to tell the tales of their days of traveling the United States from race track to race track, their much-publicized grudge matches, the business partnership they formed called, “Wildlife Racing,” and their pioneering work in non-automotive sponsorship with Mattel’s Hot Wheels.
An Evening With Don “The Snake” Prudhomme
At 5:30 p.m., An Evening with Don “The Snake” Prudhomme will begin. A cocktail hour with Prudhomme, McEwen, and honored guests such as Roland Leong, Tommy Ivo, Carroll Shelby and many others will be followed by a fabulous dinner buffet. Special guest Dave McClelland, the Voice of the NHRA and longtime friend of Don Prudhomme, will be the Master of Ceremonies. The evening will continue with a short film featuring The Snake’s history and several other drag racing icons will share their stories of the legend. A live auction of amazing racing memorabilia will follow with proceeds going to the Petersen’s educational programs. Guests will also be able to preview the items that will be in the Bonham’s and Butterfield’s Motorcycles and Memorabilia auction on Saturday, Nov. 13.
Tickets for An Evening With Don “The Snake” Prudhomme are $125 each. Tickets for the Match Race Madness panel discussion are $50 each. A combined ticket for both events is $150, a $25 savings. Special pricing is available for certain levels of Petersen Automotive Museum Membership. For more information call (323) 964-6325, or to buy your tickets on-line, go to www.petersen.org. Event proceeds support the Petersen Automotive Museum’s educational and cultural mission.
Honoree: Don “The Snake” Prudhomme
In the early days of his drag racing career, Don Prudhomme worked as a crew member for drag racing icon “T.V.” Tommy Ivo. In 1962, Prudhomme achieved his first Top Fuel win at the Smoker’s March Meet in Bakersfield, California. From 1962 through 1964, Don teamed up with Tom Greer and legendary engine builder Keith Black, and built the famous Greer, Black & Prudhomme Top Fueler (on display in NHRA: 60 Years of Thunder) which won nearly every west coast event. Prudhomme went on to drive Roland Leong’s “Hawaiian” Top Fuel dragster, and won his first NHRA race, the 1965 Winternationals in Pomona, California. He then switched to Funny Cars in the 1970s and won four straight NHRA Funny Car World Championships between 1975 and 1978 and had seven NHRA U.S. Nationals wins. He was the first Funny Car driver to go 5 seconds in the quarter mile and the first to top 250 mph.
Don Prudhomme’s quick reaction times earned him the nickname, “The Snake.” He teamed up with his friend and rival, Tom “The Mongoose” McEwen to form the team “Wildlife Racing,” and they were hired by track owners to race each other in grudge matches around the country. But the real money came when they were sponsored by Mattel’s “Hot Wheels,” the first non-automotive sponsor in NHRA history.
The Snake last raced on his “Final Strike Tour” in 1994, but stayed active in other areas of the sport. Until his retirement earlier this year, Don “The Snake” Prudhomme was a car owner running a Top Fuel Dragster Team and two Funny Car teams. Prudhomme has 49 career wins as a driver, and 59 career wins as an owner.
National Hot Rod Association
Nestled in the quiet community of Glendora, Calif., just minutes east of downtown Los Angeles, is the world’s largest and loudest auto racing organization, the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA). Since it was founded by Wally Parks in 1951, NHRA has been dedicated to safety while providing millions of racing fans with The Extreme Motorsport: the fastest and most spectacular form of entertainment on wheels. With 80,000 members and more than 35,000 licensed competitors, NHRA is a thriving leader in the world of motorsports. Parks initially started NHRA as a means of getting hot rodders off the streets and on to legal drag strips. Since those early days, NHRA has evolved into the largest promoter of professional drag racing in the world. Today, with more than 300 dedicated employees, NHRA offers drag racing opportunities for hot rod enthusiasts of all levels, from kids ages 8-17 in the NHRA Jr. Drag Racing League all the way up to the top of the Professional ranks with the organization’s NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series.
NHRA is moving just as fast in popularity with auto racing fans. Second to only NASCAR in terms of attendance, fan appeal, and sponsorship commitment, NHRA is moving quickly into mainstream America.
NHRA is all about diversity. With more than 20 categories of competition, including Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock, and Pro Stock Motorcycle at the Professional level, to a multicultural array of high-octane personalities it calls world champions; NHRA thrives on unique competitors accomplishing unique achievements. For example, in 2008, Hispanic racer Cruz Pedregon won the NHRA Funny Car world championship, and Ashley Force Hood and Melanie Troxel became the first female winners in the Funny Car class.
Participation on and off the track has made the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series one of the most popular forms of racing, reaching thousands of fans, members, and sponsors a quarter-mile at a time.