John Potts · Thursday March 3, 2011
Seeing Don Prudhomme named as one of the “coolest” athletes in a list published by a Los Angeles newspaper made me smile. The Snake is truly one of the coolest guys in sports, and he’s one of those people I have been privileged to meet.
One day at pre-Nationals testing on the IRP drag strip, I was operating the clocks and Dave Scroggin, another journalistic type who loves all kinds of racing, was taking notes for National Dragster. Snake’s cars were there, of course, and every session for the fuel cars, he’d come up to the second floor of the tower to observe.
He was always telling us something very insightful, and it was fun just to be around a legend in the sport. Once he said, “Y’know, if you guys would pipe this stuff down to the motorhome I wouldn’t have to come up here.”
Yeah, but then we wouldn’t have gotten to talk to you, Snake.
Another time, when Ron Capps turned in a really good run in Snake’s funny car, he asked if our guy at the top end was standing right beside the car when Ron pulled off. I asked, and our guy said he was.
He said, “Tell him Snake said that was a good run.”
After I did, he added, “If I wasn’t so cheap we’d have radios, like Force.”
Congratulations on the recognition for being cool, Snake.
And oh yeah, thanks for the case of Miller Lite you brought up there after the testing was over.
Q & A
“Are the front clips of Cup cars all the same, with different decals? Do you know of a website that shows them side by side?” — Chris Hutchison
I wasn’t able to find a website like that, but I’m still looking. For the other question, our best resource, Larry McReynolds, says, “There are slight differences in the hoods and top portion of the noses, but not much. The lower valances, below the front bumper, are the same with slight differences in the grill openings, but not much. NASCAR has worked hard to keep the front downforce very close between the four manufacturers. The front fenders are pretty much the same shape and size.”
Ronnie Bates in Waynesburg, Ky., who knew Curtis Turner and wants to know all about him, says our mentioning of Smokey’s “sidecar” last week piqued his interest.
“I know that Pops drove several stock car races for Smokey in the famous Chevelle. I can only find that he practiced one of Smokey’s cars at Indy, not the sidecar, but didn’t he crash during practice? I got to know Pops real well back in the late ’60s. I remember him pulling up one of his pant legs to his knee and showing me horrible scars on that leg below the knee. He said, ‘Those d—-ned Indy Cars will get you killed.’ I was thinking it was an Indy practice crash in which he received those injuries, in one of Smokey’s cars.”
Well, Ronnie, you’re absolutely right. As luck would have it, I was there for that practice day. It was the car we referred to last week with the “S” shape to the frame. I couldn’t remember the year, so I asked Donald Davidson, he of the photographic memory who knows EVERYTHING there is to know about ANYTHING that ever happened at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and he said the accompanying photograph of Smokey, Curtis, and the car was taken in 1963.
As I recall, Smokey’s assertion that the car had a “…left turn built into it” proved correct, because Curtis ended up in that creek that used to run inside the first turn.
I’m adding another picture to show that Curtis wasn’t the only NASCAR driver of those days to try a roadster at Indy. That’s Junior Johnson in the roadster with a cage on it. Junior didn’t like it.
Later, when the rear engine cars came to prominence, a couple of southerners named Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison did very well at Indianapolis.
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