In this study, we examine, for a six-link snake robot, how an optimal gait might change as a function of the snake- surface interaction model and how the overall locomotion performance changes under nonoptimal conditions such as joint failure. Simulations are evaluated for three different types of friction models, and it is shown that the gait parameters for serpentine motion are very dependant on the frictional model if minimum power expenditure is desired for a given velocity. Experimental investigations then motivate a surface interaction model not commonly used in snake locomotion studies. Using this new model, simulation results are compared to experiments for nominal and nonnominal locomotion cases including actuator faults. It is shown that this model quite accurately predicts locomotion velocities and link profiles, but that the accuracy of these predictions degrades severely at speeds where actuator dynamics become significant.