Photos: Richard Shute/Auto Imagery

Don ‘Snake’ Prudhomme pairs with Parnelli Jones’ grandson for Mexican 1000

Leave a comment

Legendary drag racer Don “Snake” Prudhomme vowed after competing in last year’s National Off-Road Racing Association 1000 off-road race (also known as the NORRA 1000 and the Mexican 1000), that it was a one-and-done effort or him. After all, he had just turned 77 and had long sought to check the 1000 off his bucket list.

Well, so much for that idea.

Prudhomme, who turned 78 on April 6, is coming back for more in this year’s NORRA 1000 (April 28 through May 2) .

It was during last year’s race, it was in the middle of the night and in the middle of Mexico and I said there’s no way I’ll ever do this again,” Prudhomme told NBC Sports. “Then a few months pass by and you go, ‘Hmmm, if I go back, maybe I’d do it this way.’ Well, I’m going back.”

But Prudhomme isn’t just going back. He’s in it to win it.

I have some unfinished business from last year’s race,” said Prudhomme, who finished 95th out of more than 150 entries — but he completed the entire 1,300-mile circuit. “I made a lot of mistakes, I didn’t know the course, I didn’t know the GPS. I was like a duck out of water there.

But this time, I get it now. I’m not going to say I’ll do any better, but I’m pretty sure I will because I get it and I understand the course.”

MORE: K&N Series’ Jagger Jones, drag racing icon Don ‘Snake’ Prudhomme pair up for Baja race

The drag racing icon spent more than 30 years piloting Top Fuel dragsters and Funny Cars, winning numerous championships and countless races. But he’s a relative newcomer to off-road racing. Last year was only his second-ever race, and it came 50 years after he was unable to make his initial debut in 1968 when the motor on his ride blew up the night before that race was to kick off.

While he said a top-five finish in this year’s 1000 “would be great,” Prudhomme has an even higher goal this year.

It would mean everything to me to win it,” Prudhomme said. “I’ve won in drag racing and I’ve done really good things there, but running off-road, I never have won. It would probably be the greatest achievement I’ve ever accomplished if I could win that thing. That would be over the top – and we stand a shot at it, we really do.”

Prudhomme will be paired with young up-and-coming NASCAR K&N Series driver Jagger Jones, the 16-year-old grandson of iconic racer Parnelli Jones and son of race car driver PJ Jones, whose performance company built the off-road vehicle Prudhomme and Jagger will pilot.

Doing it with Jagger, he’s a young, real aggressive driver and he’s really fast,” Prudhomme said. “I couldn’t think of a better kid to be my co-driver.”

Jagger competed for another team in last year’s NORRA 1000, which was his first career off-road race as a competitor. The younger Jones and his brother Jace were leading the race late when the transmission on their vehicle broke, ending their winning hopes.

Jones is looking forward to being paired with Prudhomme.

It’s really cool to be able to do a race with the one and only Snake, who has been such a legend in the drag racing community,” Jones said. “I’m only 16 years old, so I think it’s pretty awesome.

I’ve always been around the off-road scene and watched my dad do a lot of races off-road. I grew up around Robby Gordon and off-road places like Parker (Arizona), where we always go there every year and go camping. I’ve always wanted to do off-road racing. My brother and I both enjoy it. It’s a lot of fun and a lot of different than the pavement stuff. It’s really fun when you’re sideways and stuff.

 

(If we win) I think that would be super awesome. We definitely have a shot at winning. It’s like an endurance race. First, you have to finish to win. That’s probably going to be our biggest goal. We want to do good, but if we can just finish, I think we’ll wind up in a good place. If we finish, anything else is a bonus. To win would be awesome. My dad won last year, so if we could follow that up this year, it’d be super cool.”

Even though Prudhomme said no more after last year’s NORRA 1000, he is back for this year’s race. But that will be it, he vows.

This is my last tango in Baja,” Prudhomme said. “But the kid’s got me excited. I ran with him some last year and he’s really fast. He was born to race and fortunately I’ve got him with me and we’re going to have a ball.

But this is my last tango, trust me.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Steve Torrence takes NHRA points lead with Gatornationals victory

NHRA Gainesville Steve Torrence
Jeff Robinson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Leave a comment

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Two-time defending NHRA Top Fuel champion Steve Torrence took the points lead Sunday in the AMALIE Motor Oil Gatornationals, beating his father, Billy, in the final round at Gainesville Raceway.

Torrence had a 3.809-second run at 322.11 mph to win for the third time this year and 39th overall. He is now on track for another championship despite missing the season opener.

“We’ve got some good momentum and to be in the points lead, it’s a testament to how hard these guys work,” Steve Torrence said after the NHRA Gainesville victory. “We’ve just got to stay focused and concentrate on what the task at hand is, and that’s trying to win a championship. These guys give me an unbelievable race car and you just try not to screw it up.”

Ron Capps won in Funny Car, Alex Laughlin in Pro Stock and Matt Smith in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

Capps raced to his second win this year and 66th overall, beating Tim Wilkerson with a 3.937 at 323.12 in a Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat.

Laughlin topped Aaron Stanfield with a 7.068 at 204.76 in a Chevrolet Camaro for his first win this season and fourth in his career. Smith rode to his first victory in 2020 and 25th overall, topping Andrew Hines with a 6.843 at 196.99 on an EBR.