Two legends in the sport of drag racing are ready to meet fans and celebrate a milestone in Tulsa this weekend.
Don "The Snake" Prudhomme and Tom "The Mongoose" McEwen are spending the weekend at the Nitro Nationals and Old Time Drags Friday and Saturday at Osage Casino Tulsa Raceway Park.
The track is celebrating its 50th birthday, so it invited Prudhomme and McEwen to be a part of the event. Prudhomme and McEwen were up-and-coming stars in the late 1960s when a colleague hatched the idea of capitalizing on the rivalry. Prudhomme was already nicknamed "The Snake," because to hear McEwen tell it he was "6 feet tall and 100 pounds."
McEwen said the colleague commented that it was like the snake and the mongoose from Rudyard Kipling's Rikki Tikki Tavi short story in "The Jungle Book."
Mattel signed them to a deal in 1970 and started selling Snake and Mongoose Hot Wheels toy cars to a generation of kids. It's credited as one of the best marketing and sponsorship deals in the history of racing.
Even so, both men are surprised that the Snake and Mongoose rivalry is still popular all these years later. It was even the subject of a movie called "Snake and Mongoose" in 2013.
The two have fond memories of racing in Tulsa, especially in the early days.
"You used to be able to build a whole car for a thousand dollars," McEwen said. "And now it costs more than a thousand dollars to make a run in one of these cars, the fuel is so expensive."
Both men say the sport is doing well, but they're nostalgic for what it was like when they first started out. They said they loved coming to Tulsa because of the great racing community.
"Those were the days you could go to a junk yard and buy a motor and clean it off and put some pistons or something n it and put it in your rail job and come out here and compete. And there was like maybe 36 or 40 top fuel dragsters here in the pits and racing and in today's world maybe you'll find 10 or 15," Prudhomme said."He and I have driven everything from 70 mph cars to 300 mph cars. We've done it all, we've been through the fires and the crashes," McEwen said.
Prudhomme and McEwen, both members of the International Racing Hall of Fame, are looking forward to signing a lot of autographs this weekend. They encouraged fans to bring whatever snake and mongoose memorabilia they may have, whether it's model cars or old photos.
Gates open at 6 Friday night with racing starting at 7. On Saturday, gates open at 9 a.m. Saturday. Eliminations begin at 6 p.m.