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
“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.”
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.