The Prudhomme Story: 5 of 5



        ROCKY'S ROAD            



We needed the perfect presentation for the “Snake” Part 5 of 5

The stage was all set for the Last Strike Tour to arrive at the NHRA Northwest Nationals as Don Prudhomme hangs up his driving career in 1994. Kenny Youngblood had arrived in Seattle with the gorgeous painting of that rare photo of Prudhomme in his early funny car days. The painting of his funny car, that was on fire, as it exploded at the finish line in the early 70’s at SIR, was all completed and hidden away in my office…so no one could see it before that certain time of the presentation. The planned presentation would be on the starting line Sunday morning.

Once in awhile, the NHRA Northwest Nationals and the Seafair Hydro race on Lake Washington would end up on the same weekend…early August. Scheduling is always so complicated in this sport but this year it turned out to be so very perfect. Bill Doner was the Commissioner of the Unlimited Hydros, and good friend, the late Steve Woomer, had a hydro team of his own. Woomer had been the SEMA (Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association) President along with being President of his own Competition Specialties located in Auburn, Washington. Both of these guys have had a long and storied relationship with Prudhomme. They are both in the area….how can we bring them to the race at SIR and not impact their own efforts at the hydroplane races?

What if we could get a helicopter and land it at SIR in the shut-off area and wisk the two of them down to the starting line for a photo shoot with Prudhomme. That sounds crazy because two racing events would need to come to a halt at the very same time. If, some way, we could pull it off it would be even more special to Prudhomme that two of his close friends flew right into the race track and shutdown the event. Wow, how cool is all of this?

In came the helicopter and the NHRA event was shutdown, with both Doner and Woomer receiving a special ride to the starting line. A small stage had been made just for this occasion and had been wheeled into place. A photo-shoot presentation took place right on the starting line with plenty of motor sports media as they understood the significance of this special moment in this sport. The whole program went as smooth as could be. Kenny Youngblood was there along with his gorgeous painting of that incredible moment in time back in the early 70’s. No doubt this was a special moment for Prudhomme and his Last Strike Tour.

Left to right:  Kenney Youngblood, artist; Steve Woomer (Competition Specialties);  Don Prudhomme (white shirt), Jim Rockstad, General Manager of SIR, and Bill Doner, my mentor.


Upon completion of this fabulous painting Kenny Youngblood had been hiding it for weeks and then he sneaked it up to Seattle so no one had ever seen it. The debut of the painting took place right there on the SIR starting line while these two huge racing events came to a complete halt. That in its’ self was like a special salute to Don Prudhomme from the two largest motor sports events in the state of Washington. When he pulled the cover off the painting there was a lot of ooozs and ahhhhs by just about everyone there, including the Snake himself. It was one breathtaking moment by everyone in attendance, as well, and certainly deserved by his many career successes within the sport.

Personally, I’ll never forget when Prudhomme looked me up in 1988 with the arrival of the inaugural NHRA Northwest Nationals to Seattle. He showed up at the press conference mid-week, just prior to the event, at a restaurant in downtown Seattle. He congratulated me on getting this new event and I always appreciated that effort by him.

I felt the very least I could do for his Last Strike Tour, some 6 years later, was to do something that he would remember for a long, long time. He could then close this driving chapter of his life and start racking up the wins as a team owner.

A few years ago I came across Kenny Youngblood during the annual NHRA Northwest Nationals here in the Northwest. It was great discussing things with him and he did reiterate the story about the Prudhomme painting and how that did regenerate his career which had floundered for a bit. That one photo taken so innocently by that young boy so many years ago had sparked a new life into Youngbloods’ career. Wow….that little photo had a special impact to Kenny.

I will never forget how this whole affair came together. It was the last picture on the roll of film for this young boy and his urge to use up his last shot before going home. Some 20 years later I’m agonizing over what I could do that would be classy as Prudhomme was going to retire from his lengthy career in driving. The now-grown-up son tells me this story and opens up a little packet with this little color photo in it. The whole scenario was so scripted that it chills me to even talk about it.

What an impact one little photo can have on a whole group of people. The little photo was so big that it stopped two racing events at the same time….a stunning moment in time!

Next Rocky's Road: What would it be like NOT having a hot meal on Thanksgiving?