Don "The Snake" Prudhomme sometimes had a love/hate relationship with the media as a driver. But, almost three decades since he walked away from driving, he's since embraced the pen-and-mic club. 

Monday, after the crowds had dispersed at Indianapolis Raceway Park, a sentimental Prudhomme stood on the same starting line where he had won seven times. He looked off into the distance.

As a reporter approached him, Prudhomme broke his stare and greeted him like a long-lost friend. During his racing days, Prudhomme would have likely said, "Call me on the effing phone next week."

This time, Prudhomme wanted to handle the business right then and there.

Then the reporter asked a question Prudhomme wasn't expecting, but responded to with the same snake-like reflexes that earned him the nickname over five decades ago.

"I see when you're around Ron Capps, and especially in the press conference, the way you act toward him. Makes me want to ask a personal question, "Is Ron Capps the son you never...’

"Yes," Prudhomme interrupted. 

No one had really ever asked the question, but he was all too willing to answer, given the opportunity. 

"Absolutely," Prudhomme continued. "Yeah. From Day One, when he first started driving for me, there was just this thing about him that he was just cool, he gets it. We just become close. And, yeah, he's like the son I never had, for sure."

Capps began driving for Prudhomme in 1997 after having caught his eye running a limited schedule behind the wheel of Roger Primm's Top Fuel dragster. He proved a natural in a Funny Car, winning twice in three final rounds during his rookie season. He won 14 races while driving for Prudhomme, and five in one season during 1998.




On Monday, Capps won his second NHRA U.S. Nationals, a feat he's achieved as a team owner, but never as a hired driver.

"I wouldn't be here, period, if he hadn't sern something in me," Capps said. "He used to call me Mario all the time, and he never called me my first name. It was always Mario, and it was the biggest compliment ever because he said I reminded him of Mario Andretti. …

"I'd never sat in a Funny Car, never driven one. We dropped the body the first day to get my license, and I had to take a timeout and raise the body up and get it shut it off. I was like, ’ Okay, I need a minute.’ That's what a Funny Car is. It demands every bit of respect.

"To have him in my corner my whole life and just the dad he was to me. I got a great dad. But I mean, on the road, it was learning how to wear certain clothes, how to pack. I learned so many cool things that you just can't even put a price on. That's the kind of cool stuff."

Prudhomme said hiring Capps was a no-brainer, and some might say it was to keep him away from John Force. Force has said on multiple occasions that he'd made a run for Capps as a driver for him during the same time frame. 

"Look at him," Prudhomme said Monday afternoon in the winner's post-race press conference. "Yeah. So he was amazing right from the get-go. Not only did he drive, he was just cool to hang out with, which I needed because it's a pain in the ass owning one of these cars and dealing with some drivers from time to time.

"I hated when we lost him. But he went on to bigger and better things, and I was happy for him. We've stayed close. We live within a couple of miles of each other. We don't ever see each other until we're at the racetrack, or else we're talking on the phone. But we need to have some more dinners together, I think."




Capps left Prudhomme at the end of the 2004 season to drive a Faberge Brut-sponsored Funny Car for Don Schumacher.

Prudhomme likes to joke that Capps lived vicariously through him. But in honesty, the iconic drag racer admits the train ran both ways. 

"He's just special," Prudhomme said. "I have a daughter [Donna] that I love more than anything, but Ron, he's just a special guy, and I think the world of him. I wish he were my son, but he's got a great dad."

Fatherly sentiments aside, Prudhomme readily admits Capps was the perfect conduit from his generation of drag racers to the next. 

"I think so," Prudhomme said. "I'm just so happy that he went out on his own and had put this program together. I just supported it completely. It was a hell of a move for him to make and a big responsibility. But he's a professional, and that's just the way he is. And we're fortunate to have him in the sport, and I'm fortunate to have him as a very, very close buddy, friend."

As much as Prudhomme likes to play off the reverence he gets from adoring fans, likening him to drag racing's version of Mickey Mantle or Babe Ruth, he believes the day is coming, if its not already arrived, when Capps will generate the same legend.

"I think it already has," Prudhomme said of the 75-time NHRA race winner. "He's really making his mark. But it takes time; it just takes a long time. He's doing great, but it takes years and years and years of getting to know the fans and them getting to know you. I just hope that he is one of the guys that's going to help build this sport and make it even better than it is now."

And Prudhomme understood in those days when he took the chance, Capps was a star waiting to happen. 

In hindsight, Prudhomme gifted drag racing with the star he knew it needed.