Craig Breedlove and Don Prudhomme have each passed significant milestones in raising the speed records of two different forms of motorsports. They have achieved the highest speeds of any of the six 2000 inductees into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame. They, along with Mario Andretti, A. J. Foyt, Nelson Piquet and Ayrton Senna, will be inducted on Thursday evening, April 13th, at the Hall of Fame’s Speedvision Dome.
While Prudhomme was winning NHRA championships at record speeds, Breedlove was busy clocking some of the fastest land speeds ever recorded.
Craig Breedlove bought his first car at the age of 13. When he became legally able three years later, he got his 1934 Ford Hot Rod Coupe up to a remarkable 154 miles per hour. He later drove a supercharged “belly tank” streamliner 236 mph on Utah’ 5 Bonneville Salt Flats.
In 1959, he paid $500 for a military surplus J-47 engine and began building his first “Spirit of America”. Breedlove clocked a record run of 407 mph in this car at Bonneville in 1963 to return the world land speed record to America after more than three decades.
The next year Art Arfons and his Green Monster gave Breedlove some serious competition. The two men traded the record back and forth for three years. In 1965, Breedlove put an end to that by setting a new World Land Speed Record.
The record of 600.601 made Breedlove the first man to break the 400, 500 and 600 mph barriers on land. Britain’s Andy Green has held the current record of 763 since October of 1997. Breedlove plans to reclaim the record soon with a run of 800 miles per hour that would far exceed the minimum 771 mph run needed to break Green’s existing mark.
For Breedlove, the sensation of such speed is incredible. “I’m sitting six inches off of the ground, going faster than a bullet,” said Breedlove. “It is quite a rush.”
Don “The Snake” Prudhomme is recognized as one of the greatest drag racers of all time. In 1962, Prudhomme first made his mark in motorsports when he won the Top Fuel class at “Smokers March Meet” in Bakersfield, California.
During the next 30 years, Prudhomme won titles in both the Top Fuel and Funny Car classes and took victories in 49 career events. His 32-year-career made it possible for him to win races in four different decades and become fourth on NHRA’s all-time list of wins.
Prudhomme reached the finals 68 times in his career. He won 35 of 45 Funny Car finals and 14 of 23 Top Fuel finals. “The Snake” won 389 of 589 rounds of competition overall for an outstanding .660 winning percentage.
Throughout his career, Prudhomme has broken several barriers in drag racing. He became the first driver to win four consecutive (1975-1978) Winston Series titles and he won the U.S. Nationals seven times. In 1982, he became the first Funny Car driver to break the 250 mph barrier and in 1989, he was the first to post a run of less than 5.20 seconds.
Prudhomme became the first NHRA Winston World Champion in 1975 when he won an amazing seven of eight national events. In 1965, he was the first driver to win both the U.S. Nationals and Winternationals in the same season. At the age of 51, he became the third Top Fuel driver to surpass the 300 mph mark.
Prudhomme continued his own Top Fuel team with new driver Larry Dixon after his “Final Strike” farewell in 1994. In 1997, he added a Funny Car team with Ron Capps driving and he now has strong entries in both. Since his retirement, Prudhomme has been named one of the 100 Most Influential people in the high-performance industry. He has also been inducted into the SEMA and Hot Rod Magazine Halls of Fame.
Tickets for the induction ceremony remain on sale at the International Motorsports Hall of Fame. The cost is $100 per person or $760 for a table of eight. This includes a reception, then dinner, a two-hour awards show and a post-ceremony reception. To purchase tickets, call the Hall of Fame office at 256/362-5002.