It’s with great sadness that we share the news of the passing of Tom “the Mongoose” McEwen, one of the most iconic figures in drag racing history. Tom sadly passed away on June 10th at the age of 81.
Tom was a legend in drag racing to say the least. He began racing in 1953 driving a ’53 Olds at Santa Ana Dragstrip in Irvine, California. According to the NHRA, he was given the name “The Mongoose” in 1964 to entice Don “The Snake” Prudhomme into a high-exposure match race. The race would eventually take place to which Tom won. With their match race attracting so much interest, two more races between “The Mongoose” and “The Snake” would take place in 1965. In 1969, the pair joined together to form “Wildlife Racing”. Tom and Don would have a long lasting friendly rivalry during their racing careers but more importantly, a long lasting friendship that was as strong as brotherhood. Their friendship and rivalry would eventually inspire the 2013 movie titled “Snake and Mongoose”.
The pair would became household names thanks to sponsorship deals with Mattel and Carefree sugarless gum. “I was the BSer and Prudhomme was the racer,” Tom once said in an interview. “I’d set up the deals, then we’d go out to the track, and he’d usually beat me. There were times when he was beating me so regularly that the only way I could have beaten him was if he got lost on the way to the track and I got to single. We were a good team; we complemented each other. Don was the serious guy, spent a lot of time with his car, and I was more like the wrestlers today; saying how bad I was going to beat him to build interest in the deal.”
Tom was a member of the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame and the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America to name a few. “We are all saddened to learn the news of Mongoose’s passing,” said NHRA President Glen Cromwell. He was truly one of the most brilliant pioneers of NHRA Championship Drag Racing and continued to support the sport through a number of initiatives including our current NHRA Legends Tour in which he played an instrumental role. Everyone at NHRA will miss him deeply. Our thoughts, prayers and deepest condolences are with the McEwen family at this difficult time.”