Drag racer Tom McEwen recalled for hot wheels on, off track

Updated June 14, 2018 - 2:12 pm

As I am typing this tribute to drag racer Tom McEwen, there are dozens of die-cast racecars displayed on my bookcase shelves — mostly Indy 500 cars, an assortment of Formula One, some iconic Porsche 917s than ran in the 24 Hours of Le Mans during Steve McQueen’s day.

The replica cars cost a pretty penny, and they collect a lot of desert dust.

It’s all McEwen’s fault.

Tom McEwen, who died Monday at age 81, was a champion drag racer whose career spanned four decades. He was an even better self-promoter. During the 1960s an engine builder named Ed Donovan nicknamed McEwen “The Mongoose,” which McEwen parlayed into a match race against the racing rival with whom he will forever will be associated, Don “The Snake” Prudhomme.

It was McEwen who approached the Mattel toy company about producing Hot Wheels cars in the image of the ones he and Prudhomme drove on the barnstorming drag race circuit.

They reminisced about it during an informal session with media at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 2011.

“It was Tom’s idea,” Prudhomme said. “Tom had kids and his mom knew someone at Mattel … it was the easiest sell in the world.”

To which McEwen, whose many victories included the 1968 Stardust National Open in Las Vegas, replied: “I thought with the kids, they would like cars with little animals on them. We went, (Mattel) thought it was a great idea; we went back, they had drawings (of the cars) and we’ve been with ‘em ever since.”

Maybe they weren’t the first die-cast race cars, but they were the first two I remember collecting, along with the Hot Wheels No. 48 Indy Eagle.

It was all The Mongoose’s fault, but I’m really not complaining.

Truck race sponsor

Westgate Resorts will serve as title sponsor of September’s NASCAR Truck Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The World of Westgate 200 will get the green flag Friday, Sept. 14 — the second of four consecutive days of NASCAR racing, topped by the South Point 400 Cup Series playoff race on Sunday afternoon.

Green, white, checkered

— Las Vegas teenager Riley Herbst will make his Xfinity Series debut Sunday, driving the No. 18 Toyota for his ARCA car owner Joe Gibbs at Iowa Speedway. It will be Herbst’s first start in one of NASCAR’s three national touring series; he’s also expected to drive in a Truck Series race for fellow Las Vegan Kyle Busch at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in September.

— LVMS Bullring veteran Stan Mullis also will be running in the Xfinity Series race in Iowa. Mullis, whose triumphs at LVMS include three Super Late Models races, will drive the No. 66 Toyota with Danielle Long listed as car owner. Mullis made his Xfinity debut in the Iowa corn last year, starting 39th and finishing 32nd.

— At the Bullring: Chris Trickle Classic, 7 p.m. Saturday, twin 35-lap NASCAR Super Late Models feature races. The evening will honor Chris Trickle, a budding NASCAR star from Las Vegas who died in 1998 as a result of a still unsolved drive-by shooting. Tickets/info: 800-644-4444/LVMS.com.

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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