Tom “The Mongoose” McEwen, who was voted No. 16 on the NHRA’s Top 50 Drivers list in 2001, died June 10. He was 81.
Nicknamed The Mongoose in 1964, as part of a campaign to reel rival Don “The Snake” Prudhomme into a high-exposure match race, McEwen won five NHRA national events during his 35-plus-year career that included time in Funny Cars and Top Fuel dragsters.
Always the promoter, McEwen earned a reputation for being one of the sport’s most colorful figures.
McEwen made regular SEMA Show appearances throughout the years. One of the more memorable moments was when he took the stage with Prudhomme during the Show’s annual NHRA Breakfast, and the two legends entertained the audience with stories about their well-known rivalry.
Through his long association with Prudhomme, a friendship that survived their racing careers and sometimes bitter rivalry, McEwen helped blaze the trail toward the sponsored drag-racing team. Their Mattel sponsorship, which gave way to “Snake” and “Mongoose” Hot Wheels toys, and backing from big names like Coca-Cola and Carefree sugarless gum, were of major significance, but McEwen was a drag racer first.