Each type of racing has its own legends. For open-wheel racing, A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, and Juan Manuel Fangio, for NASCAR, Richard Petty, Junior Johnson, and Cale Yarborough, among others. One name indisputably in the pantheon of drag racing is six-time NHRA champion Don Prudhomme. Hot Rod Unlimited’s Elana Scherr got a chance to talk with the drag-racing legend about the early days of the sport at Famoso Raceway in Bakersfield, California.
Scherr tracked down Prudhomme at the 2012 NHRA California Hot Rod Reunion at Bakersfield’s Famoso raceway, one of the first tracks in the country to allow nitromethane as a fuel, which has since become the predominant fuel in professional drag racing. As Prudhomme shared, “Once the guys discovered nitro, they didn’t want to run anything else.”
Of course, trying to conduct an interview at a drag race track brings its own issues, and Scherr had to get her questions in between races, but with the cars running in the 5-6 second range, she didn’t have to wait long. She also had the temerity to ask Prudhomme about his formerly anti-social reputation. He said it wasn’t necessarily intentional. “I was very intense. It was nothing personal, I was just very intense. I didn’t want to take one minute of time off of what I was doing, because the job was that important to me.”
To get another perspective of the action, Scherr interviewed Adam Sorokin, son of Mike Sorokin, who was killed in a racing accident when Mike was only one year old. But his mother continued to take him to the drag races, where he befriended Prudhomme, who became his racing mentor. Sorokin explains the cars competing today in the Nostalgia drag series are evolutions of the originals, with modern safety equipment and engine components.