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Bye to the ’Goose: Remembering Tom McEwen

HOT ROD logo HOT ROD 6/26/2018 Hot Rod Network Staff
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finish-line-freiburger-mongoose-mcewen-lead© Hot Rod Network Staff finish-line-freiburger-mongoose-mcewen-lead

Ugh. Tom "The Mongoo$e" McEwen died on June 10 this year, and I can't get it out of my head. Weird, because I only barely knew McEwen personally. Just when I thought I was a calloused journalist who was getting accustomed to the legends of our sport falling down with regularity, I realized I'm actually just a bone-deep car guy who became that way thanks to inspirations from those folks who came before us. It's not the HOT ROD magazine Freiburger who really misses the guy. It's the 10-year-old Freiburger standing at the fence at Pomona, pushing as close to the starting line as possible because burnouts are best, and because Steve Evans just announced that 'Goose is coming to the line in that Corvette Funny Car!

Tom McEwen's last big flash in the magazines was when he built a 1957 Chevy Funny Car that was in the Jan. 1989 issue of HRM. He won Top Fuel at the Summernationals in 1991 and was in the process of retiring from driving right at the time I got hired as a HOT ROD staffer. I was first introduced to the Goose by Gray Baskerville, and I gradually became accustomed to spotting McEwen at all sorts of industry functions, as he later worked as the Motorsports Director of Drag Racer magazine. As it turns out, marketing and sales were his genuine skills; it was he who nailed that famous Hot Wheels deal, and he also had longstanding deals with Coors and English Leather. His acumen in the pitch room put the $ in Mongoo$e.

It was at a sales meeting about a year ago where I last saw McEwen, and where we ended up spending an hour and a half just talking about stuff. It was the first time we'd shared more than a handshake and a nod. He was really interested in the video part of my job and was curious about the sponsorships and audience of our shows and our social media. I, of course, had to hear the story of flying that Hemi-'Cuda. He graciously delivered, always willing to perpetuate the imagery of the past as he had done so many times.

In truth, Tom McEwen was not a standout winner at the finish line of the dragstrips, but his name will remain among the most well known in all of drag racing. Perhaps it's not the winning that matters as much as how memorably you race.

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