Gwynn Sees Bright Future for NHRA Top Fuel Owner Searches for Sponsor to be Partner in Success FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (Sept. 22, 1999) -- Darrell Gwynn has never been one to feel sorry for himself, but the NHRA Top Fuel owner is a little confused...
Gwynn Sees Bright Future for NHRA Top Fuel Owner Searches for Sponsor to be Partner in Success
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (Sept. 22, 1999) -- Darrell Gwynn has never been one to feel sorry for himself, but the NHRA Top Fuel owner is a little confused about the dilemma his team faces heading into the season's stretch run. Winners of three national events and sitting atop the Top Fuel standings for most of the year, Gwynn and driver Mike Dunn face a problem usually reserved for struggling motor sports programs -- sponsorship. Long-time backer Mopar announced earlier this year that it will not return as the team's primary sponsor next season, leaving the door wide open for a company looking to be teamed with a pair of winners. "It shouldn't be this difficult," said Gwynn, a successful Top Fuel driver until an Easter Sunday exhibition accident put him in a wheelchair in 1990. "For $2 million, a company could sponsor our winning motor sports program with two personalities. For $2 million you can barely buy a sticker on a NASCAR program. "A new sponsor always gets a lot of exposure in its first year," Gwynn added. "And 2001 will be the NHRA's 50th anniversary, so the attention will continue. This is a great opportunity for a corporation looking to get into motor sports." Don't look for Gwynn to give up, however. It's simply not in his nature. Even while lying in a hospital bed nearly 10 years ago recovering from life-altering injuries, the Florida native was working the phones trying to keep his dream of being a champion alive. "I knew I could still bring people to the dance to be my hands and feet," Gwynn said in an article in USA Today. "If Mike Dunn wins a championship, we all win." The NHRA, hoping to capitalize on the recent motor sports boom, has taken serious steps to improve the commercial appeal of its sport, targeting prime television positions and building star power to its champions.
"From an organization standpoint, I don't think the NHRA has ever been stronger than it is right now," NHRA president Dallas Gardner said in an interview with Speedvision. "The product is great and the facilities have all gotten better and better, and you'll continue to see millions of dollars poured into other facilities." Interest in NHRA drag racing reaches beyond the quarter-mile of asphalt the 6,000-horsepower nitromethane monsters call home. Motor sports power broker Bruton Smith has an offer on the table to buy the sanctioning body, comparing the opportunity to the early stages of NASCAR. "I think they need to make some changes to survive long term, but I see some parallels to early NASCAR,'' said Smith, who hosted this year's Winston Showdown and will host his first NHRA national event, the Las Vegas Nationals in April. Gwynn knows he has the total package -- a great car, a great driver and a growing organization. Now, he just has to get the message out.