The Mongoo$e Journals

February 16th, 2011

Text by Tom “The Mongoo$e” McEwen

Faithfull readers, this edition I have a special event to share with you. Very recently the famous Peterson Automotive Museum hosted a unique affair paying tribute to my old friend, business partner and teammate, “The Snake,” called An Evening with Don Prudhomme. It was held in conjunction with the opening of a major new exhibit commemorating 60 years of NHRA racing. Your old Goo$e was one of the honored guests.  Besides all of the cars on display for the NHRA exhibit, there were half a dozen others, including the Greer Black and Prudhomme dragster that owner Bruce Meyer brought.

Ed Pink’s newly restored “Old Master,” “The Hawaiian,” “The Greek’s” “Chizler,” and the “Barn Stormer” added to the festivities.

Actually it was more like a day with Don Prudhomme.  It started out early in the afternoon with a 90-minute program titled “Match Racing Forum.”  A panel comprised of, Snake, Roland Leong, Tommy Ivo, Dale Armstrong, Chris Karamasines, Snake’s long time crew chief Bob Brandt and yours truly was on hand.  Bill Stephens, one of ESPN’s best drag racing commentators ever, moderated the event. We recounted stories of pistol-toting race promoters and high-stakes gambling in the grandstands. More than once at US 30 in Gary, Indiana, a group of disgruntled bettors would demand to see the broken race car parts that had cost them big bucks.  We’re talkin’ big guys with big guns. We also talked of hours spent traveling up and down highways and two-lane blacktops, sometimes three and four races a week. Some tracks had searchlights beamed down the strip for night races, or spectators lined their cars alongside the track with headlights on. A pickup with a couple locals in the back, fire extinguishers (hopefully charged) rolling around, served as a “crash crew.”  And of course, the small town honeys whose boyfriends were dumb enough to bring them to the races. Don and I talked of our experiences with The Greek who always welcomed us into his home with open arms during our trips through Chi-Town, and of course our Hot Wheels years. Ivo, the merry prankster, recounted his many practical jokes, like replacing Don’s shampoo with motor oil, and how I eventually got fed up and dangled him by his heels off the balcony of a hotel room.

Shortly after, guests began arriving for the cocktail party and dinner, which was scheduled for 5:30. The second stage of the affair literally got off with a bang. Frank Baney, Jimmy and Paul Rossi and Chuck Goebel were kind enough to bring their Yeakel Plymouth Top Fuel dragster.  Along with Bill Pitts’ Winkel, Trapp and Fuller “Magicar” fueler, the Yeakel car was displayed on the Museum’s second floor roof. Just after dark the two dragsters were fired up. The Yeakel boys really had the purple T/F on max-cackle with 3-foot flames blasting from the headers, glowing cherry red from the heat. God only knows what the residents of the high dollar high rises surrounding the Museum must have thought was happening.

A major league crowd showed up for the dinner to honor Don.  It was like a mini version of the Hot Rod Reunion. In addition to the drag racers and well-wishers, his good friend and Indy and NASCAR car owner Chip Ganassi made the show, along with Indy winner Arie Luyendyk.

After some seriousLY good eats, Bill Stephens took command of the proceedings. Following a film featuring the evening’s honoree, all us special guests from the Match Race panel individually took the stage to share some stories about Don. Thankfully, everybody was on their best behavior. Chip Ganassi and Linda Vaughn also participated in the evening’s festivities. The merriment and good times lasted until after 10:00, and as they say, a good time was had by all. Congrats. Don.

Now, I’ll let you in on a little secret: A movie set for theatrical release about the exploits of The Mongoo$e and The Snake is going to be made.  It’s now in pre-production. I’ll keep you posted. Until next issue, thanks again for stopping by.

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