Mike Dunn Profile
Of all the drivers who have strapped into a Top Fuel dragster or a Funny Car, just three besides Mike Dunn ever won 10 or more races in both classes: 4 time world champions Don Prudhomme and Gary Scelzi and 6 time world champion Kenny Bernstein.
Dunn has exactly 10 wins in Funny Car from 1981 to 1991 and 12 wins in Top Fuel from 1993 to 2001.
Growing up in Southern California the son of Hall of Fame Drag Racer "Big Jim" Dunn, Mike began racing bicycles and go-karts as a teenager before earning his Alcohol Funny Car license in his dad's car just before he turned 20 in 1976. The following year he earned his Fuel Funny Car license before taking a job as a crew member for legendary car owner Roland Leong and working for him until 1980.
In 1980 Dunn drove Bill Schifsky's Bear Town Shaker on the match race circuit before teaming back up with Roland Leong as a driver in 1981. That year Dunn scored his first National event victory as a 25-year-old rookie with a win at the inaugural Golden Gate Nationals in Fremont, California.
Respected by his peers for being a mechanic as well as a driver and for always getting his own rides and consistently producing, Mike has forged a solid career and ranks among the most prolific drivers in fuel racing history with 22 NHRA national event victories. But it was in 1986 he won the biggest race of his career, the U.S. Nationals at the wheel of noted race-engine-component manufacturer Joe Pisano's Oldsmobile Firenza.
A year later, Mike was Indy runner-up, obliterated Funny Car's 280 mph barrier, setting the National Speed record in Dallas, Texas. At the time the speed was 7 mph faster then the next closest competitor and held for almost 2 years. In 1988, he won two more major events and his first back to back titles at the inaugural Supernationals in Houston and the Fallnationals in Phoenix, and in 1989, he won two more back to back, the Southern Nationals in Atlanta and the Cajun Nationals in Baton Rouge,La. He also finished in the top 10 from 1987 to 1989 despite running a limited schedule all 3 years.
Dunn started out the 1990 season without a ride but soon put together a deal to drive and manage a new Funny Car team. Dunn loaded up his family and left Southern California, where he had machined crankshafts for a living in between driving jobs, for the hills of Pennsylvania in the summer of 1990. He returned to the series late that season and immediately became competitive, finishing with a runner-up at the Heartland National in Topeka in only their second event and winning the following event, the Chief Nationals in Dallas.
In 1991 Dunn enjoyed the best season of his career running the entire series for the first time. The 34-year-old Dunn contended for the championship to the end and won 3 races-the Mid-South Nationals in Memphis, the Springnationals in Columbus and Mile-High Nationals in Denver, while finishing 3rd in the final points standings.
When that team, sponsored by Snickers candy bars disbanded following the 1991 season, Dunn found himself without a ride once again. He then signed with major-league baseball slugger Jack Clark's Top Fuel car for a 3 race deal and immediately distinguished himself with a 297-mph pass in Houston in March 1992-the fastest speed in drag racing history at the time.
Dunn teamed up with Darrell Gwynn for the 1993 campaign and quickly established themselves as a contender. With his first full season in Top Fuel Dunn claimed his first Top Fuel title with a win at the 1993 Mile-High Nationals. Dunn was on top again at the Chief Nationals in Dallas later that year and managed to finish 4th in the final standings.
In 1994 Dunn made his first 300-mph pass and was involved in the first side-by-side 300-mph race, against the late Blaine Johnson at the Keystone Nationals at Dunn's home track, Maple Grove Raceway in Reading Pennsylvania.
In 1995, Dunn had one of his finest seasons, with Frank Bradley as crew chief, the team won three times - at the Slick 50 Nationals in Houston, The Autolite nationals in Sonoma, California, and the Champion Auto Stores Nationals in Brainerd, Minnesota.
In 1996, in his final race with outgoing crew chief Frank Bradley, Dunn was runner-up at the Southern Nationals in Atlanta, and two months later at Memphis in his 4th race with crew chief Ken Veney, won again. Dunn reached one more final that season in Seattle.
In 1997, Dunn was runner-up at the Gatornationals, and in 1998 he was in the final round four times, including three in a row. He lost all four, and each time to the same opponent: Gary Scelzi, who had yet to complete a Top Fuel season without being crowned champion.
Dunn's career continued its upward arc in 1999, when again he advanced to the final round of four races. This time, he won all four - the Winternationals in Pomona, California, The Gatornationals in Gainesville, Florida, The Route 66 Nationals in Chicago, and the Millennium-ending World Finals, also in Pomona.
1999 is also when Dunn received one of his greatest honors: selection as Car Craft Top Fuel Driver of the Year, an award that in the past has gone to greats of the sport "Big Daddy" Don Garlits and Shirley Muldowney. Even with all the success of the season the teams' major sponsor, Mopar decided to end the sponsorship and the team sat out the beginning of the 2000 season.
In the middle of 2000 the team received a call from Hank Steinbrenner, son of George Steinbrenner, about sponsorship from the New York Yankees baseball team. By September the team had a 3 year deal put together and ran the final 3 races to get prepared for the 2001 season.
In 2001 Dunn went to 5 final rounds and picked up 2 wins on his way to a 4th place finish. He also set the national speed record, recorded the fastest speed at the time (331.61) became the first driver to run under 4.50 with the new 90% rule and set numerous track records. Even so, the team released him in July as they were looking to re-organize the team. By the end of the year it was apparent to Dunn that the new organization would probably not produce a championship team, and Dunn left to pursue other opportunities.
In 2002 with all of the quality driving jobs filled, Mike signed a 1 year contract to be the on-air analyst for the ESPN telecasts for the NHRA Drag Racing series. After the positive response of the first season Dunn signed a multi-year agreement with ESPN through the 2006 season.
With all of the on track success that Dunn has had in his career it seems that being an ESPN analyst has given him the most name recognition and respect from his racing peers and as a result signed a contract with the network that will keep him on air until at least 2012.
© Copyright 2006 Mike Dunn
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