By Darr Hawthorne
Photos by Jeff Burk
days it's no big deal to see second-generation
drivers in drag racing's Pro categories. Second-generation
drivers with last names like Bernstein, Anderson,
Kalitta, Johnson and others can be found on
the qualifying sheets at almost every national
event, but few if any of these second generation
drivers can match the accomplishments of Fuel
Funny Car owner/driver/tuner Jim Dunn's son
Mike. Mike Dunn's resume is outstanding by anyone's
standard. In his rookie season in a Fuel Coupe
(1981) he won the Golden Gate Nationals at the
now defunct Fremont, Calif. facility. He won
Indy for the first time in 1986 in a Funny Car.
He switched to Top Fuel in 1992 and, while driving
for Darrell Gwynn and tuner Ken Veney, had a
very successful career winning many Top Fuel
races. He was the first to run over 331 mph
and has been in the 4.40's at least three times.
When he lost his ride with the Gwynn family,
he moved to the broadcast booth where his has
become a fixture on ESPN's coverage of the NHRA
POWERade races. DRO sent West Coast editor Darr
Hawthorne to interview Mike at the Las Vegas
event. It turned out to be one of the most revealing
and candid interviews we have ever done.
Were you the kid that we saw in the movie "Funny
Car Summer" riding the bike?
Mike Dunn: Oh
yeah, that was me.
DRO: Your family goes way back in drag racing for years and years. Did you ever figure you were going to do anything but drag racing?
MD: I kind of figured this is what I wanted to do, actually the year before that movie was made in '72 or came out in '73 we went on our summer vacation, since my dad (Jim Dunn) was a fireman and he raced as a hobby back then. We actually went out East, raced in the Midwest and raced on the East coast for eight weeks and that was our summer vacation. That was the point that I decided I wanted to race. He thought I was crazy, he said you can't make any money doing this, he kind of wanted me to be an accountant or something, but I didn't listen to him.
DRO: What did you do in your spare time? You used to work for Joe Pisano didn't you?
MD: Actually I never did work for Pisano. When I drove for him, I did work at other crankshaft companies. I worked for Velasco's Crank Shaft, Pro Crank, L.A. Billet. That's kind of what I did in between rides to supplement my income if I didn't have a full time ride. I started out at Reath Automotive doing crankshafts, detailing them and then welding them and being in the business and having a good reputation. . .I wouldn't say reputation, but people knew me.
If I raced during the summertime, when I went on the road I could come back
in the wintertime and always find a job to help
pay the bills. When I was driving for Pisano,
he raced a limited schedule so actually I started
out working at L.A. Billet and I finished out
working at Pro Crank, which is no longer around,
I worked there to help supplement that income.