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Gwynn Rises from the Ashes as Motorsports Hall of Fame Inductee

FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. (March 1, 2023) – The legend of the phoenix is as ancient a tale as they come – a mythical bird that lives for hundreds of years before passing away in a shower of flames, only to regenerate, rise gloriously from the ashes and fly away full of youth and vigor. The bird’s “rise from the ashes” today serves as a fortifying notion to anyone who has experienced loss or devastation.

While no one experiences a literal “rise from the ashes”, a metaphorical rise isn’t only a possibility but a tremendous reality – something which only one who has experienced tremendous adversity can know.

Enter Darrell Gwynn.

As an NHRA world champion and 28-time NHRA winner, Gwynn was at the top of the drag racing world in 1990 when, during an exhibition race at Santa Pod Raceway in Bedford, England, his dragster suddenly broke and veered left into the retaining wall at approximately 240mph. The force of the impact left the 28-year-old driver with major, life-threatening injuries. A terrific battle of faith and determination allowed Gwynn to survive the ordeal, but he was left paralyzed and had to endure the amputation of his left arm.

Faith might be elusive for most people in a similar situation. Gwynn himself has often noted that he is “part of a club nobody signs up for,” but at the end of the day, Gwynn isn’t most people. A fighting spirit sustained him and has been the driving force behind the path he chose to follow since that fateful day in April 1990. It’s also paved the way for what will transpire on Tuesday, March 7, when Gwynn is officially inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America (MSHFA).

Gwynn will join the class of 2023 at MSHFA’s milestone 35th Annual Induction Ceremony at the Shores Resort & Spa in Daytona Beach, Florida. The black-tie gala is the crowning event of a two-day MSHFA induction celebration that will formally usher the Class of 2023 into the only Hall of Fame of all motorsports. Gwynn will be presented into the Hall of Fame by “Big Daddy” Don Garlits, the first MSHFA inductee in the Drag Racing category when he was part of the inaugural class in 1989.

“I look at this as the greatest professional accomplishment of my life,” Gwynn says of his impending induction into the MSHFA. “We won a championship and won a lot of races, but to get recognized by the largest motorsports-related hall of fame is remarkable for me. It was about what we were able to accomplish in a short period of time. What means the most to me is the former inductees vote on who gets into the Hall of Fame, so the racers voted to elect me in. When your peers vote you in, that means the most to me. I was just a little kid peeking my head through a hole in the fence watching these guys race and hoping I could compete with them some day. And not only did I get to race with them, the same group of racers felt I was worthy of being voted into the Hall of Fame. It’s doesn’t get any better.”

Along with being the NHRA Top Alcohol Champion in 1983, Gwynn racked up the aforementioned 28 total wins between the Top Alcohol and Top Fuel classes throughout a career that was cut short by his accident. In the years since his life changed so dramatically, Gwynn spent time as a team owner in the NHRA paddock, picking up 15 victories as an owner along the way. In addition to frequent visits to racetracks across the country, Gwynn continues to make a commitment to be a champion for others through charitable work in the hopes of one day accomplishing the ultimate victory of finding a cure for paralysis.

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In 2015, Gwynn teamed up with The Buoniconti Fund and its efforts to raise funds and awareness to support The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis. The Miami Project and its fundraising arm, The Buoniconti Fund, along with its amazing staff of scientists, physicians and clinicians, have since enabled Gwynn to have a family and enjoy an incredibly high level of function and independence. As the scientific progress continues, Gwynn continues to dedicate his life to raise funds and awareness toward a victory over paralysis.

In an interesting twist of fate, Gwynn felt so strongly about Marc Buoniconti’s struggle to find a cure for paralysis, and the plight of those suffering from paralyzing spinal cord injuries, that he personally placed the iconic Miami Project wheelchair logo in a prime location on his racecar to show his support more than six months before his unfortunate accident. He’s been a strong supporter ever since through his fundraisers, such as his Darrell Gwynn Chapter Track Walk for Those Who Can’t in Gainesville, Florida, and the “Hot Rods and Reels” Fishing Tournament during Daytona Speedweek at Daytona International Speedway. The fundraisers not only support much-needed research, Gwynn also donates customized and motorized wheelchairs to children.

“I’m 61 years old and feel like I have a lot of energy and a lot more to give,” Gwynn says of his charitable work and his constant presence at racetracks across the country. “I’ll keep going until I can’t anymore. I can’t sit around and I’ve never been able to just sit around from the time I was a child. I joke that I can’t sit still and I’m 61 and in a wheelchair. I like having fun and I like raising money and I love being around racetracks. We got to do all three of those at Daytona a few weeks ago, and at Gainesville coming up, and many other places, as well. When you can have fun, donate a chair and raise money for a great cause, and get to be around all of my like-minded people and friends, that’s kind of a grand slam for me.”

One doesn’t need wings to take flight. Gwynn does it every day through his philanthropic efforts – a real-life phoenix who knows what it means to emerge from the ashes smarter, stronger and more powerful.

About Darrell Gwynn and The Darrell Gwynn Quality of Life Chapter of The Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis: The Darrell Gwynn Chapter of The Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis was established in 2015 and is led by director Darrell Gwynn. In April 1990, his life changed dramatically after a devastating racing accident that caused his paralysis. Following his accident, Gwynn established the Darrell Gwynn Foundation, which provided support for people with paralysis and worked to prevent spinal-cord injuries through their Wheelchair Donation Program and Education & Prevention Program. In 2015, Gwynn felt that it was time to “go home” and has become the director of the Darrell Gwynn Quality of Life Chapter of The Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis. The chapter will continue quality-of-life initiatives and assist The Buoniconti Fund in its efforts to raise funds and awareness to support The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, the world’s premier paralysis research center located at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

To learn more about the Darrell Gwynn Chapter of The Buoniconti Fund, visit https://www.themiamiproject.org/chapters/darrellgwynn/put-the-brakes-on-paralysis. Please follow us on Facebook at @DarrellGwynnChapter or on Instagram @TheMiamiProject and Twitter at @BuonicontiFund or search the hashtags: #DarrellGwynnChapter #PutTheBrakesOnParalysis #StandUpForThoseWhoCant

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