Lo­cal auto rac­ing this week

Dave Gunn fol­lows in his fa­ther Alex’s foot­steps, sort of; Tag gets another NASCAR win, and the Big-Blocks are com­ing to Mer­rittville

The Hamilton Spectator - - WHEELS - TIM MILLER Miller con­tin­ues // WH6

“I had a 1965 Chevy Im­pala with the fac­tory 409 en­gine. I brought it up to Cayuga (dragsr­tip) to try it out. I was hooked.” DAVE GUNN

Sit­ting and talk­ing with Dave Gunn re­cently was a win­dow into my early years. While Gunn is an ac­com­plished drag racer, his fa­ther Alex Gunn was one of my fa­vorite rac­ers as a youth, and many a Fri­day night I sat cheer­ing him on with his red num­ber 43 coupe at Speed­way Park. So did son Dave. “I grew up at Speed­way Park (on the Stoney Creek moun­tain) and Mer­rittville Speed­way,” said Gunn, who lives in Hamil­ton’s East End. “I was the old­est of four broth­ers and none of them were into rac­ing.”

His fa­ther came from Nova Sco­tia around 1950 and al­most im­me­di­ately started rac­ing on the for­mer dirt tracks in An­caster and Brantford, ac­cord­ing to Dave. When Speed­way Park opened in June of 1961, the elder Gunn be­came a pop­u­lar fix­ture on the half-mile clay oval, team­ing up with noted car builder Wil­fred “Wimpy” Ni­chols and a 327-Chevy pow­ered 1936 Chevy Coupe run­ning in the Sports­man class.

The se­nior Gunn was very com­pet­i­tive for the next sev­eral years, rac­ing against lo­cal he­roes Bruce Van Dyke, Jeno Be­golo, and Ivan Lit­tle, and some hot New York State rac­ers such as Bill Rafter and Chuck Boos. Gunn and his coupe won track cham­pi­onships at both Speed­way and Mer­rittville, and raced un­til the mid-1970s.

Dave started rac­ing in the late 1960s, fol­low­ing his fa­ther’s foot­steps.

“Dad got me a 1957 Chevy that I raced for a cou­ple of years in 1968 and 1969,” he ex­plained. “I was able to race at the track but I wasn’t 16 yet.”

While he said he en­joyed the oval track rac­ing, he added he found his call­ing, in a rac­ing sense, in 1977.

“I had a 1965 Chevy Im­pala with the fac­tory 409 en­gine,” he ex­plained. “It was a street car and I brought it up to Cayuga (the dragstrip) to try it out. I was hooked.”

Af­ter the Im­pala he cam­paigned a Mus­tang for sev­eral years, trav­el­ing to race meets in On­tario and sev­eral US ar­eas, tak­ing his share of wins. But a nasty spill at Saint Thomas in 2007 saw him roll the car on its roof. He was not in­jured in his only mishap of 38 years of rac­ing, but the Mus­tang was a to­tal mess.

The next year he picked up his present race car, a 1984 Dodge Charger, stuffed a 511-cu­bic inch Mopar en­gine in it, and con­tin­ued rac­ing. The car, which com­petes in sev­eral classes in­clud­ing the TNT Su­per Se­ries and IHRA’s Hot Rod class, is ca­pa­ble of get­ting down the quar­ter mile in 9.50-sec­onds at 140 mph. The Charger, known as “Top Gunn,” dis­plays the num­ber “4300” on its win­dows in homage to his fa­ther.

He has won events many times over his rac­ing ca­reer, in­clud­ing a re­cent win in the tough TNT Su­per Se­ries in May.

While Dave spends a lot of time at the track, he does have other in­ter­ests. He and wife Glenna travel ex­ten­sively, in­clud­ing trips to China, Egypt, and Rus­sia. And he was quick to point out the sup­port he has re­ceived from his fam­ily. “I have thank Glenna for let­ting me do what I love to do, rac­ing, these past 31 years.”

And what did his fa­ther think of him rac­ing in a straight line rather than on a dirt oval?

“He came and watched me a few times,” Dave said. “But he thought it was a lit­tle bor­ing.”

Tim Miller photo

Left, While Hamil­ton’s Dave Gunn grew up watch­ing his fa­ther Alex race the lo­cal ovals, he de­cided drag rac­ing was for him, and has been at it over 30 years.

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