Group Of Six Heads Into Motorsports Hall Of Fame
April 12, 2000 | 12:00 A.M. EST
He once had a nasty Australian shepherd that reminded him enough of A.J. Foyt that he named it after the four-time Indianapolis 500 winner. And when he got a sleek golden retriever, it was obvious to Prudhomme that the dog should be named after the late Formula One great Ayrton Senna.
"I named that shepherd A.J. because he was such a mean fellow," Prudhomme said. "I told A.J. about it once and I think he wanted to punch me.
"And Ayrton Senna to me was unbelievable, so when this golden came along ... ."
There's no telling if either of those drivers ever considered naming anything "Snake" - Prudhomme's nickname for his quick strike off the starting line - but he doesn't care. Naming his pets after two of his favorite racers was just his way of honoring them.
Now, he'll be honored along with them.
Prudhomme, who won four consecutive NHRA Funny Car championships in the 1970s, is being inducted this week into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame with Foyt and Senna.
Joining them in the Class of 2000 are Mario Andretti, Craig Breedlove and Nelson Piquet. Andretti and Foyt were selected by an Associated Press panel as the greatest drivers of the 20th century.
"Man for man, this class probably has won more major events in different forms of motorsports than any other class," former Hall director Don Naman said when the selections were announced last fall. "Each is a legend, not only in their own area of focus, but also worldwide."
Prudhomme has a special feel about his induction.
"But I don't really feel like I am in the same league as those guys," he said. "I'm sure a lot of other people do, but I mean that's a pretty stout group."
Indeed it is.
And then there's Prudhomme. Although not the most recognized name in the group, he won 389 of 589 rounds of competition - a winning percentage of 66.
During a 32-year racing career, he won 49 events and titles in the Top Fuel and Funny Car classes. He's also recognized for winning races in four different decades and ranks fourth on the NHRA's career victories list.
But one of the true highlights of his career will be joining Andretti and the others in the Hall.
He remembers attending a race in 1967, when Andretti crashed and was burned on his face. Prudhomme was wandering through the pits that day when he saw Andretti.
"I was this punk kid, a nobody walking in the garage area just standing outside his ropes," Prudhomme remembered. "And Andretti was in there on the phone and he saw me and gave me this nudge to come in.
"That was a big deal to me - the little things like that you can't forget."