NHRA’s National Dragster is an outstanding publication with its comprehensive coverage of both pro and sportsman drag racing.
Veteran National Dragster editor Phil Burgess recently re-published a Q&A interview he had several years ago with legendary Funny Car driver Tom “Mongoose” McEwen, who passed away last month at the age of 81.
The interview was both poignant and timeless, really capturing the essence of who McEwen was and what he meant to the sport of drag racing, and what the sport meant to him.
We’d like to share a few excerpts of that interview with some of McEwen’s poignant comments. At the end of the excerpts, we’ll give you the link to the full story from NHRA.com, which you’re sure to enjoy.
NATIONAL DRAGSTER: How does it feel to be a living drag racing legend?
McEwen: In some people’s eyes I am, but not so much in my own. I’ve done some things and have helped the sport, but I never won that many races like (Don) Prudhomme. I know I was right there, and without me to beat they wouldn’t be champions, but to be compared to Prudhomme and [Don] Garlits and other such people, I don’t know. I always felt I was a very good driver, but I was never a tuner. There are other people who are bigger heroes than me who don’t get the recognition they deserve, like Ed McCulloch. He has never gotten his true deal. He has won a lot of races, tuned cars, and done a lot of things in the sport, but somehow he gets overlooked a little.
The other difference between me and someone like Prudhomme or Garlits is that I didn’t have that killer instinct every round. Prudhomme was 24-7; me, I liked doing other things. I always knew that was the difference between us, but it never bothered me because I didn’t want to be like those guys.
NATIONAL DRAGSTER: Does it bother you that Prudhomme always seemed to run better, won championships, and got the bigger sponsors?
McEwen: I’m not the jealous type; I just made sure I had fun doing what I did. I didn’t let it eat me up.
NATIONAL DRAGSTER: What kind of rivalry was it (with Prudhomme)?
McEwen: The rivalry was very serious, and we tried to be friends off the track, but we’re just different people. His fire burned a lot hotter than mine; he was possessed. He hated to lose, especially to me, not that that happened a lot.
NATIONAL DRAGSTER: And, of course, there’s Indy in 1978, when you beat Prudhomme in the Funny Car final just a few days after your son Jamie died of leukemia.
McEwen: That was a big deal; probably the biggest. Prudhomme always seemed to have a tenth on us back then, so we built a special ring-and-pinion with a shorter gear. We put it in for the semifinals when we had a bye run and it stuck, so we kept it for the final. We made our quickest run, and it all worked out and we won. I turned off into the grass and was sitting in my car crying. The people were going crazy, and Prudhomme came up under the body with me and we shook hands, both of us crying. I think it was probably the only time he didn’t mind getting beat. People still talk to me about it.
NATIONAL DRAGSTER: How would you like to be remembered?
McEwen: As a good guy. Kind of a smart aleck guy who liked people and enjoyed what he did. I was serious at the track but had fun away from it.
As the SuperMotocross season heads outdoors, the NBC Power Rankings change significantly with results from the Motocross opener at Fox Raceway in Pala, California. The Power Rankings assign a numeric value to each individual moto (90 points maximum) as well as the overall standings (100 points) and averages that number over the past 45 days. Included in the Power Rankings are results from the final five Supercross rounds, which fit into that 45-day timeframe.
It didn’t take long for Jett Lawrence to rocket to the top of the SuperMotocross rankings – only about 74 minutes in fact. Lawrence dominated his first moto and beat his teammate Chase Sexton, the 2023 Monster Energy Supercross champion, to the line by 10 seconds. He had to fight a little harder for the second moto win as Sexton stalked him throughout the race and ended up less than a second behind.
Beginning this week, we have added the SuperMotocross points’ ranking beside the rider’s name and in one fell swoop, Lawrence went from being unranked in the 450 class to 26th. To qualify for the inaugural SuperMotocross’ guaranteed 20 positions that automatically make the gate for the three-race championship series, Lawrence needs to be inside the top 20 in combined Supercross and Motocross points. The bubble is currently held by Justin Starling and Lawrence needs to make up 44 points to overtake him.
Sexton’s second-place finish in the overall standings at Fox Raceway marked his ninth consecutive top-five finish. After the race, Sexton compared the battle he had with Lawrence to the one he experienced with Eli Tomac in last year’s Pro Motocross championship. These two riders had a significant advantage over the field in Pala, but there is still a lot of racing to be completed.
After missing 13 rounds to a concussion, Dylan Ferrandis told NBC Sports that he was not going to do anything risky in the season opener at Fox Raceway. If he dialed back his effort at all, one would be hard-pressed to notice. He finished third in both motos and was third in the overall standings. Ferrandis began the weekend just outside the top 20 in combined SuperMotocross points and climbed to 19th. In the next few weeks, he will get a little more breathing room over the cutline and then challenge for wins.
Adam Cianciarulo’s three-race streak of top-five finishes ended with a sixth-place overall at Fox Raceway, but that was enough to advance him one position in the NBC SuperMotocross Power Rankings and land him eighth in the combined points standings. His individual motos were moderate, but Cianciarulo is still battling the effects of injury and a nagging loss of strength in his wrist.
Aaron Plessinger returned from injury in the Supercross season finale to finish second at Salt Lake City. He added another top-five to his season total and now has six of those in the 13 rounds he’s made. With Ken Roczen and Eli Tomac not currently racing in Motocross, Plessinger has an opportunity to rise to the third seeding in short order.
A bad start to Moto 1 at Fox Raceway was not enough to deter Hunter Lawrence. Neither was the fact that he was riding with sore ribs after experiencing a practice crash earlier in the week. He was a distant 10th to start the first race and for most of the 30 minutes, it seemed he would finish off the podium. Lawrence did not win the 250 East Supercross championship by giving in to hopelessness or pain, however.
Lawrence picked off one rider and then another until he found the battle for the top five in front of him at the halfway point. Once the field started to lap riders, Lawrence used the opportunity to continue forward through the grid. He passed third-place Jo Shimoda with two laps remaining and challenged Maximus Vohland for second on the final trip around Fox Raceway, but had to settle for the final spot on the podium. Lawrence dominated Moto 2 and claimed the overall victory in Pala.
Justin Cooper made his first start of the season at Fox Raceway and earned enough NBC Power Average points to climb to second. Partly this was due to consistently strong runs in both motos and a 5-4 that gave him the fifth position overall, but he is also not weighed down with moderate Supercross results. It will take a week or two to see where his strength lands him on the grid.
RJ Hampshire may feel he has something to prove after finishing second to Jett Lawrence in the 250 SX West division. He certainly rode like that was the case in Moto 1 and easily outpaced the field on his way to victory lane. In Moto 2, he crashed twice on Lap 1 and dropped back to 39th. It took half of the race to get inside the top 20 and salvage points. By the end of the race, he was 11th and while that was enough to get him on the overall podium, it cost him points in the NBC SuperMotocross Power Rankings.
Haiden Deegan surprised the field in Houston in his 250 Supercross debut by finishing fifth. At the time, he said his strong result was because there were no expectations. He echoed that statement after the Motocross season opener. His second-place finish in the overall standings was enough to project him five positions up the SuperMotocross Rankings. In 11 rounds in the combined series, Deegan has earned seven top-fives and a worst finish of eighth.
Jo Shimoda did not make his first Supercross race of 2023 until late in the season. He finished fourth on the hybrid track of Atlanta, which had some similar elements to Fox Raceway. His fourth-place finish in Moto 1 of the Motocross opener made it seem likely he would score an overall podium, but a sixth in the second race cost him points in the NBC Power Rankings in a field that promises to be extremely tight.
Driver (SMX rank)
Hunter Lawrence (1)
Justin Cooper (42)
RJ Hampshire (3)
Haiden Deegan (4)
Jo Shimoda (16)
Guillem Farres (46)
Levi Kitchen (6)
Max Anstie (5)
Max Vohland (8)
Enzo Lopes (10)
Mitchell Oldenburg (13)
Carson Mumford (19)
Jordon Smith (7)
Ryder DiFrancesco (48)
Chris Blose (12)
Chance Hymas (27)
Tom Vialle (9)
Jett Reynolds (55)
Michael Mosiman (28)
Garrett Marchbanks (64)
* The NBC Power Rankings assign 100 points to a Main event winner in Supercross and overall winner in Motocross. It awards 90 points for each Moto, Heat and Triple Crown win. The points decrement by a percentage equal to the number of riders in the field until the last place rider in each event receives five points. The Power Ranking is the average of these percentage points over the past 45 days.