“They say I’ve helped a lot of people,” said former NHRA Top Fuel racer Darrell Gwynn. “I say a lot of people have helped me.”
With that closing comment, Gwynn got the evening’s only unanimous standing ovation at the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America. Paralyzed in a crash in England in 1990 when his dragster literally broke in half, Gwynn has worked tirelessly to raise money for paralysis research, and to donate customized wheelchairs to paralysis victims.
Gywnn was being inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America Tuesday night, to a standing-room-only crowd that included a startling number of motorsports luminaries. Unlike most specialized halls of fame, the Motorsports Hall of Fame—founded in Novi, Michigan in 1986 and now based in Daytona Beach, Florida—recognizes most all forms of motorsports, from desert racing to air racing to boat racing, as well as more widely-recognized forms of racing.
For that reason, the annual event, which has grown dramatically over the years, attracts the widest range of motorsports personalities and executives of any single gathering.
The Hall of Fame is situated within a 20,000 square-foot museum outside of Daytona International Speedway’s fourth turn. Its annual induction ceremony is wisely held immediately after The Amelia and the season opener for the IndyCar series in St. Petersburg, and shortly before the NHRA season opener in Gainesville and the Twelve Hours of Sebring IMSA race, and during Bike Week in Daytona (as the rumble of countless Harley-Davidsons outside could attest).
Besides Gwynn, inducted for his too-brief-but-stellar NHRA career, inductees included former NASCAR crew chief and team owner Ray Evernham, motorcycle endurance racer Dick Burleson, and motorsports trauma surgeons Drs. Steve Olvey and Terry Trammel.
Those inducted posthumously were airplane racer Art Chester, Corvette designer and engineer Zora Arkus-Zuntov, land speed record holder Ab Jenkins. The Hall of Fame also featured historic inductees Henry Banks, a midget and IndyCar racer, and NASCAR champion Fonty Flock.
Among the previous inductees in attendance: Donnie Allison, Derek Bell, Peter Brock, Chris Carr, Tom D’Eath, Larry Dixon Jr., Walker Evans, Elliott Forbes-Robinson, Dario Franchitti, Chip Ganassi; NHRA legend Don Garlits, 91, who inducted Gwynn; Chip Hanauer, Hurley Haywood, David Hobbs, Tommy Kendall, Jim McGee, Hershel McGriff, Fran Muncey, Scott Parker, Don Prudhomme, Brian Redman, Freddie Spencer, Jay Springsteen, Judy Stropus, Linda Vaughn, and Rusty Wallace.
They were joined by former IMSA head Scott Atherton, Indianapolis Motor Speedway head Doug Boles, tuner Reeves Callaway, GM Motorsports head Jim Campbell, World of Outlaws head Brian Carter, SCCA head Michael Cobb, NHRA head Glen Cromwell, IMSA head John Doonan, former GM Racing head Herb Fishel, NASCAR and IMSA Chairman Jim France, NASCAR President Mike Helton, Daytona International Speedway head Frank Kelleher, tuner Ken Lingenfelter, Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris, SCORE owner Roger Norman, Global GM Chairman Mark Reuss, IROC founder Jay Signore, Amelia Concours founder Bill Warner and Fantasy of Flight founder Kermit Weeks.
See what we mean? Motorsports’ brightest stars were out in Daytona.
For more information on the Motorsports Hall of Fame, visit mshf.com.