Ron Capps, reigning NHRA Funny Car world champion and winner of the 2022 NHRA U.S. Nationals, will have a new look when he defends his title at Indianapolis Raceway Park over Labor Day weekend. Capps’ NAPA Auto Parts Toyota GR Supra will sport a throwback livery paying tribute to his former team owner, Don ‘The Snake’ Prudhomme, and the legendary Hot Wheels x NHRA Funny Car. This year marks the 50th anniversary of Prudhomme’s victory at the 1973 U.S. Nationals, as well as the 10th anniversary of the ‘Snake & Mongoose’ film.
Capps, who formed his own team, Ron Capps Motorsports, over the 2021-2022 offseason, raced for Prudhomme’s Snake Racing team from 1997 through 2004. They won 13 events in Funny Car together, and now almost 20 years later, they have an opportunity to add a 14th with the Hot Wheels throwback livery.
“This is a dream come true both as a kid growing up and now as an NHRA driver,” said Capps, who swept the 2022 U.S. Nationals by qualifying No. 1, winning the All-Star Callout race, and winning the event. “It’s exciting to bring together the old-school Hot Wheels fans like myself with the next generation and offer up a tribute car with Don ‘The Snake’ Prudhomme. It’s also a tribute to what Hot Wheels did for the sport with ‘The Snake’ and ‘The Mongoose.’ It’s going to be incredibly emotional to be on the starting line at Indianapolis Raceway Park with ‘The Snake’ standing behind the car.
“I’m grateful to our partners, especially NAPA, for graciously supporting this idea and allowing us to run a throwback car like this at such a big, historic race,” added Capps, who moved into the Funny Car points lead following his victory from the pole in Brainerd, Minn. last weekend. “The U.S. Nationals is the premier event, and with the history of ‘The Snake’ at Indy, it’s only fitting that we’re able to run this car next weekend at ‘The Big Go.’
The Hot Wheels/NAPA GR Supra will be a modern version of the Hot Wheels Funny Car Prudhomme drove to victory at the 1973 NHRA U.S. Nationals. Prudhomme was already an established name in the sport with five wins in Top Fuel, but his Funny Car win at Indy helped take his career to new levels. He became the first driver in drag racing history to win a national event in two Pro categories, adding the U.S. Nationals Funny Car win to his three Indy titles in Top Fuel. He went on to win four straight NHRA Funny Car world championships (1975-78) and 49 combined wins in Top Fuel and Funny Car. As a team owner, Prudhomme added more than 50 additional wins in both nitro classes.
“I got a little tear in my eye when Ron approached me about doing this paint scheme,” said Prudhomme, a seven-time U.S. Nationals winner. “It blew me away that he was doing that, and to have NAPA on board with the whole project is quite an honor for me. It’s really a throwback paint scheme. That paint scheme, along with ‘The Snake and The Mongoose’ Hot Wheels set which was originally released in 1970, really made my career. Ron has a real, legitimate shot at winning the race, and I couldn’t think of a better guy to be teamed up with to run this paint scheme.”
The 1:64-scale Hot Wheels die-cast version of Prudhomme’s bright yellow car, as well as partner Tom ‘The Mongoose’ McEwen’s red version, brought drag racing to the living rooms of kids around the world. The toy sets introduced Prudhomme and McEwen to a mainstream audience, propelling both drivers and drag racing in general to unprecedented heights.
“The Hot Wheels team is so excited to have NHRA Funny Car champion, Ron Capps, pay tribute to the legendary Don ‘The Snake’ Prudhomme and his iconic Hot Wheels Funny Car at this year’s NHRA U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis,” said Bryan Benedict, Director of Vehicles Product Design, Mattel. “Ron has been a great friend of the Hot Wheels brand and continues to push boundaries, inspiring the next generation of automotive legends through his perseverance, passion and countless hours of ‘challenge accepted’. And the fact that this is honoring the ultimate legend, Don ‘The Snake’ Prudhomme, makes this a perfect match.
The story of Prudhomme and McEwen’s early racing careers, including their pursuit of Hot Wheels as a major sponsor, was chronicled in the 2013 film “Snake and Mongoose.” The film was released during the 2013 NHRA U.S. Nationals weekend with special screenings at a theater near IRP. It included cameos by racing personalities like Capps and fellow Toyota driver Alexis DeJoria.
“It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years since the ‘Snake and Mongoose’ movie came out,” Capps said. “As someone who grew up idolizing ‘The Snake’ and ‘The Mongoose,’ it was really exciting to see their life stories played out on the big screen. To get to be a part of the production and have a cameo in the film was surreal. This throwback car is also a great way to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the movie.”
Along with the special livery, Capps’ firesuit and the team crew shirts will look similar to what Prudhomme and his team wore in the early 1970s.
As a part of the U.S. Nationals weekend festivities, Prudhomme will hop in the seat of the Ron Capps Motorsports entry for the warmup procedures prior to the first qualifying session on Friday, Sept. 1.
The 69th annual NHRA U.S. Nationals, Sept. 1 – 4, will include Funny Car qualifying sessions on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, with eliminations contested on Monday.