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What did it mean to play a significant role in Snake’s 100th win?

LaHaie: It’s kind of funny because it never entered my mind. We were just trying to win some rounds. We got the thing tuned up and low and behold we’re in the final round. Now, we’ve got to think about winning it. We made a few adjustments and Donnie [Bender] and I talked about it and thought we could push it and we pushed it and made a pretty good run and won the race. After it was over and we had won, I was excited about it.

Snake and I are very competitive. We want the same things. It just isn’t all about winning, it’s about running a clean program and representing the sponsors well. If the wins come, then great. Snake doesn’t put any pressure on me, I put enough pressure on myself to do well. We haven’t won as much as in the past, but it’s not like we’re not trying to win. We set the bar pretty high for three years winning 23 races. That’s almost eight wins a year, that’s pretty huge. We’re not too bad this year. We could easily be a little higher in the points than we are now. I think we’re a player, we just have to work on our program a bit.

You drove dragsters for 33 years. You’re nearly 15 years in as a crew chief. Which do you enjoy more?

LaHaie: The tuning aspect has always been there. When I drove, I was involved with both. I drove, tuned, worked on the cars, designed the cars, and designed the engine combination. When I quit driving, it was a blessing. It took a big load off of my mind and let
me concentrate on different ways of trying to make the car run quicker and faster. If it came down to whether I like one or the other better, when I drove, it was the total package. Now, it’s the total package without driving. I guess when you get right down to it, I enjoy what I’m doing more now than what I did back then because I don’t have to worry about if I’m going to be late or when I’m staging the car if those bolts got tightened or if the clutch got set right. I don’t think about that stuff any more. As far as actually enjoying it more now, yeah, I enjoy it more now because I get to see the result. When I drove, I never knew what went on at the starting line because I was at the finish line. I get to see the look on the Snake’s face when the car runs well. I also get to see the look when it doesn’t run well. I think I enjoy what I’m doing more now than when I was an owner/driver/crew chief/chief mechanic/body builder/chassis designer. I enjoy it more now because you can concentrate more and do a better job.

You won a championship [1987] as a driver and four more as a tuner [1993-94, 2002-03]. Is one more rewarding?

LaHaie: The first, I feel, is more rewarding. I did it with my family, just my son [Jeff] and my daughter [Kim]. It was a big thing. Plus, we were kind of the underdog. We weren’t supposed to be able to do what we did. We were able to pull it off. Back then, we only had 14 races, but if you look at the total points – the points were 10 times what they are now – I think we had 13,000 and change. We averaged like 90 points a race and when you can run with that kind of consistency, you’ll do pretty well. That was pretty rewarding. But then again, in 1993 and ’94 when I worked at Kalittas, we assembled a group of guys and it took us about a year to gel, it was pretty darn rewarding to know that you could put together that group of guys and have it all work out. They’re all rewarding.

When we won the first one with Larry, how many years had it been since the Snake [Don Prudhomme] had won a championship? From ’78 to 2002, that’s 24 years, so that was a pretty big thing. Anytime you win a championship, it’s a big thing. He finally realized that he could do it as an owner and Larry [Dixon] could do it as a driver, I was very pleased it turned out the way it did. I really felt in my heart that we should have won the championship in 2001. We had a couple of fluke things happen at the end of the year and it just put us out of contention. We were the car to beat at the closing end of the season and we kept ourselves in position where we took the lead and then we had a miscue at Vegas. I hate that place. We won there quite a few times, but that place keeps you very humble.

Prudhomme 100th Win History and Photos [5-5-05]

InnerVIEW: Billy Glidden [5-5-05]

Back in Black [2-8-05]
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