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2014 NHRA: 60th Annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals Most Iconic Moments: Nicoll Crash In 1970 Spooks 'The Snake'
Posted by: newsla on Jul 09, 2014 - 02:59 PM
2014 NHRA: 60th Annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals Most Iconic Moments: Nicoll Crash In 1970 Spooks 'The Snake'

In the Top Fuel final round during the 1970 Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals Don “The Snake” Prudhomme lined up against Jim “Superman” Nicoll for a much-anticipated battle in the world’s most prestigious drag race.


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As the two slingshot dragsters powered down the racetrack and crossed the finish line at more than 225 mph, Nicoll’s machine suddenly suffered a clutch explosion and the parts failure broke his dragster into two pieces, scattering parts and debris into many different directions on the track.

Prudhomme won the race, however the celebration was short lived. Fearing the worst for Nicoll, Prudhomme was so shaken at the sight of the crash and resulting wreckage that he said he was through with the sport of drag racing.

“I think I’m quitting,” an emotional Prudhomme said in the shutdown area following the race. “Oh my God. I saw that car go by me and I couldn’t believe it. There was no back section on it or nothing. How bad is he?”

The Nicoll-Prudhomme 1970 Top Fuel final is one of the most memorable moments in the history of the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis, and will resonate again this year as part of a series of special tributes that will highlight the 60th edition of the “Big Go,” Aug. 27-Sept. 1.

During the weeks leading up to the running of the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, NHRA is unveiling six of the most iconic moments in the history of the event that will remember the very heroes who made them. NHRA will conduct official presentations to honor each of the moments – including the 1970 Top Fuel final – in the Hot Rod Junction on Friday-Sunday of the Indy race weekend.

This is the third iconic moment that NHRA has announced it will celebrate during the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals. Earlier NHRA announced that on Sunday of race weekend “Big Daddy” Don Garlits will reenact his famous beard shaving scene that followed his triumphant 1967 victory and on Saturday Kenny Bernstein will be honored for becoming the first double-up winner at Indy.

The Nicoll-Prudhomme presentation will take place on Friday of race weekend.

Despite the harrowing look of the crash, Nicoll received only minor injuries in the incident, thanks to the car’s blossoming parachute that lifted Nicoll and the cockpit over the guardwall and into the trackside grass.

“I remember everything but the actual crash,” Nicoll has said. “I remember doing the burnout, and it seemed like the clutch wasn’t acting right. When I left the starting line, everything was cool, and we were side by side, and about 1,000 foot, I felt the clutch start to slip. The last thing I remember was reaching over and putting my hand on the parachute handle just in case, but that probably saved my bacon.

“I remember waking up in the ambulance and then went out again and woke up in the hospital. I had a concussion, and my right foot was swelled up. I went to the hotel and then to the banquet that night. When I saw the footage, I was surprised how bad it had been; I had no clue.”

Nicoll was named drag racer of the year in 1970 by several of the sport’s top magazines and tabloids. He continued his career, racing a rear-engine Top Fuel dragster and then later moving on to the Funny Car category.

As for Prudhomme, once he realized Nicoll was OK, he also continued with his racing career, winning four NHRA Funny Car world championships and 49 national event victories as a driver and earned several more championship titles and race victories as a team owner.

“It probably looked scarier from where I was than it did for him,” Prudhomme has said about the incident. “I figured he was killed, so it shook me up pretty good. But Jim’s a rough and tough Texan guy. I wasn’t too surprised to find out he walked away from the crash.”

The most historic and tradition-rich event in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals has been contested annually since 1955.

The milestone 60th installment of the Labor Day weekend drag racing spectacular will feature more than 1,000 competitors in 12 categories during the event. The 18th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series is also the final event in the regular season. Shawn Langdon (Top Fuel); Robert Hight (Funny Car); Mike Edwards (Pro Stock); and John Hall (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the race that will once again be televised by ESPN2 in more than 10 hours of coverage.

On the racetrack, the 60th anniversary Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals will feature intense side-by-side racing at more than 320 mph, as drivers in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle compete for their share of the $2 million purse and battle for important world championship points. The race is the final regular season stop for the circuit and will establish the top 10 fields for the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship playoffs. Perhaps more importantly, drivers will compete to earn a permanent spot in NHRA history, as a Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals winner.

The race will also showcase the Traxxas Nitro Shootout, where the top drivers in Top Fuel and Funny Car will race for $100,000 bonuses, as well as the annual Mopar HEMI Challenge for Super Stock cars and thrilling competition in both the Lucas Oil Series and Pro Mod Series.

In addition, the event will feature fan-favorite Cacklefests, vintage racecars on display in the Hot Rod Junction, autograph sessions with many of the legends of the sport, a Monday edition of the SealMaster NHRA Track Walk, fireworks displays, and much more.

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