There was a time when Jim Dunn was best-known as the Long Beach firefighter who also was a drag racer. For a while, he was best known as the father of Mike Dunn, the former racer who now is an analyst for ESPN. With the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series opener just around the corner at Pomona Raceway, Dunn has evolved into a role as an elder statesman for the sport. That's a natural, given this will be his 60th season.
"I didn't even think I'd live to be 60, let alone be involved with something for 60 years," Dunn said as he prepared the Canidae/Lucas Oil Chevy Funny Car to be driven by Jerry Toliver. "I've seen drag racing going from good to bad and back to good again. "But it's hard to do it now. The fun days were when we'd go to a little match race for four days. Now you've got to have 10-20 guys on the team just to get it started." Dunn, perhaps better known as tuner, scored numerous wins, including a victory at the 1972 Supernationals at Ontario Motor Speedway and the 1981 World Finals at Orange County International Raceway in Irvine.
"Everybody asks how you can do this for 60 years. I must just really love pain or I'm just really stupid," Dunn said with a laugh. "It's been good for me because I enjoy working on the cars. I enjoy listening to them and hearing them. Everybody gets caught up winning and is hurt if they don't. "If you win a race, that's a bonus. Just getting there and getting them started is the fun part. I do it for myself because I enjoy it. When the car starts and does what you ask it to, that's the whole emotional trap right there."
Despite modern technology, Dunn relies on old-school methods. "I still tune mostly by feel and the computer tells me if I'm right or wrong. That's my back-up tool," Dunn said. "The new guys do it just the opposite way. They tune by computer and then maybe check it out by feel to see if they're right. The new guys are a lot better with the computers than I am, but I think I'm better than they are with just gut feeling. "They haven't had the experience. You don't know until it happens."
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BUSY NHRA MUSEUM - - The Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum will host three free events at Fairplex, beginning with WallyDay on Thursday. Other events include the semi-annual Night of Champions with the Auto Club question-and-answer session with NHRA drivers on Friday and the popular Racing Collectible Show on Saturday. "During these difficult economic times, families are looking for savings and the museum is pleased to offer a fun and free time for all," museum executive director Tony Thacker said. Among the highlights will be the unveiling of a limited-edition Shelby Mustang at a fundraising dinner. Ticket for the 6 p.m. dinner can be reserved by calling (909) 622-8562.
EXHIBITION RUNS - - NHRA's Hot Rod Heritage Racing Series will be showcased at the Winternationals with several exhibitions runs, including some by the famed "Winged Express" fuel-altered. Originally driven to fame by the late "Wild Willie" Borsch, it recently was ranked second overall among all cars from drag racing history in a recent NHRA.com poll. Mike Boyd will drive the four-wheeled dragster which is capable of speeds in excess of 200 mph Saturday and Sunday.
Blasts From the Past: The Winged Express, Nostalgia Dragsters and Funny Cars Showcased at 2009 Kragen OReilly NHRA Winternationals
- - Winged Express fuel altered will make exhibition passes in Pomona
01.30.09/02.04.09 NHRA, FlA & Co. - The famed Winged Express fuel altered of Al "Mousie" Marcellus and driver Mike Boyd, one of the most recognizable cars in the sport's history, will make exhibition runs Saturday and Sunday at the Kragen O'Reilly NHRA Winternationals in conjunction with a series of exhibition runs by cars from NHRA's Hot Rod Heritage Racing Series. The Winged Express, originally driven to great fame by the late "Wild Willie" Borsch, recently was voted the top exhibition car in an online poll of NHRA.com visitors and was ranked second overall among all cars from drag racing history. Four Nostalgia Top Fuel cars and four Nostalgia Funny Cars also will make runs both days.
Nostalgia Top Fuel Dragsters and Nostalgia Funny Cars from the NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Racing Series also will make scheduled runs Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday, the cars will be featured between the pro qualifying sessions. On Sunday, they are scheduled to appear between the semifinals and final round of pro eliminations.
Headlining the Nostalgia Top Fuel Dragsters will be Troy Green, driver of the High Speed Motorsports dragster that won the season championship last year in the Heritage Series. He will be joined by Rick White, driver of the Neil & White dragster, and Brendan Murry, who pilots a unique Chevy-powered dragster. Those cars are front-engine dragsters that reach speeds of 250 mph and produce elapsed times in the 5.7- and 5.8-second range.
Veteran racer Mendy Fry leads the Nostalgia Funny Car entries. She will be driving the popular Bombsquad Funny Car that is owned by Mike McCain and tuned by legendary crew chief Roland Leong. Jeff Utterback will drive the Pisano & Matsubara 1960s and 70s tribute car that is owned by Danny Pisano. The Crazy Horse Hot Wheels Mustang will be driven by Ryan Kono, and the Little Nate Funny Car will be driven by Nate Bugg.
In addition to the exhibition runs, officials from the NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Racing Series and the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum presented by Automobile Club of Southern California will host a large display of vehicles from the Parks NHRA Museum and cars that have participated in NHRA Cacklefests in a special exhibit in the NHRA Nitro Alley.