Followers of drag racing know this guy, both from his days of piloting an NHRA Top Fuel rail, what put an end to that, and the many charitable causes he has founded and embraced since.
Yep, we're talking about Darrell Gwynn, Florida's own.
You'll probably see him at some National Events throughout the year, cycling about the pits in his wheel chair and plugging some worthwhile causes.
But this time we'll see him at Daytona Speedway...for charity. Yeah, I see Darrell there every Speed Weeks and most of the time again at the Firecracker. I know calling that dates me, but so what?
First, if you're not that familiar with Gwynn, allow me to fill you in briefly.
Gwynn, who was tutored through Top Alcohol Dragster through his dad, Jerry, moved into the fuel ranks and won the Gatornationals at his "home" track in Gainesville in both 1989 and '90. He was the coming champion. Then tragedy struck during an exhibition run in England later that year and he would be forced to pilot a wheelchair, rather than a dragster.
Veteran followers will remember he continued as a car owner, and Frank Hawley, he of the now famous drag racing school, won the National Event at Columbus, Ohio, in Gwynn's car in a very, very emotional moment.
Then there was the NHRA-NASCAR softball game to raise funds for Gwynn's recovery. And along the way he formed the Darrell Gwynn Foundation to Cure Paralysis. He continued on for some time as a car owner and also become a devoted husband and father.
So, you're up to date, hopefully. Now what brings Gwynn to Daytona International Speedway and particularly the infield Lake Lloyd?
It's Daytona's first Miccosukee Resort & Gaming "Hot Rods & Reels" NASCAR Nextel drivers' charity fishing tournament whack makes its debut at 8 a.m. Friday, Feb. 16th
The tournament, modeled after the successful "Hot Rods & Reels" event at the Homestead-Miami Speedway for the past five years, offers the perfect combination of fun and excitement: fishing for trophy bass alongside NASCAR Nextel Cup drivers and other racing celebrities.
Hot Rods & Reels in Homestead has historically attracted some of the biggest names in NASCAR, including drivers, owners and TV personalities. This edition is no different. Some of the NASCAR drivers and celebrities currently scheduled (subject to change) for the 2007 Hot Rods & Reels at Daytona include: Tony Stewart, Kyle Petty, Bobby Labonte, Carl Edwards, Kenny Schrader, Ryan Newman, Kyle Busch, Scott Riggs, Bobby Allison and Donnie Allison.
"We're very excited to be launching Hot Rods & Reels in Daytona as to help kickoff the 2007 NASCAR racing season," says Gwynn, President of the Darrell Gwynn Foundation (DGF) and event founder.
The tournament is a fundraiser for the Darrell Gwynn Foundation to Cure Paralysis and the Betty Jane France Pediatric Center Speediatricsa at Halifax Hospital.
"The Daytona International Speedway is a wonderful venue, and the event will add to the excitement of the start of the season," Gwynn adds.
Hot Rods & Reels will take place on the Speedway's 29-acre infield lake, Lake Lloyd, which is stocked with largemouth bass.
"We're thrilled that historic Daytona International Speedway and Lake Lloyd are venues for this fundraiser," track president Robin Braig says, "Fishing on the legendary waters of Lake Lloyd has always been a part of the heritage at Daytona International Speedway and we're proud to host this worthwhile charity event."
The event will also feature a wheelchair giveaway to 14-year old Brian Sundin. The teen is a gifted student in high school born with arthrogryposis, a congenital condition restricting joint movement. DGF will present him with a new power wheelchair at the culmination of the Hot Rods & Reels Tournament.
Space is limited, so persons interested in participating should visit http://www.hotrodsandreels.com early to register for the event.
The Darrell Gwynn Foundation is a non-profit 501 (c) (3) organization dedicated to preventing paralysis when possible, providing support for individuals living with paralysis and ultimately finding a cure for paralysis. To expedite specific cures, the foundation assists in the funding of targeted research.
The Betty Jane France Pediatric Center "SpeediatricsR" designed with a motor sports theme, is a 31 Bed Pediatric Unit and a five bed Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Halifax Medical Center. In surroundings designed by Betty Jane France, with modern equipment and experienced staff, children literally race to the finish line of recovery in a fun-filled facility often visited by top NASCAR and sports car drivers.
Joining Miccosukee Resort & Gaming in sponsoring the event are Bass Pro Shops, Sprint and Sport Tailor.
Good luck to the event and don't let any get away.
Ah, yes, Lake Lloyd. This writer remembers it well.
For years Daytona International Speedway sponsored the Florida Sportswriters Association's annual summer meeting at which football coaches of the state's colleges spoke and answered questions.
Those busy coaches were then back on their way, recruiting or setting up August practices or whatever coaches do at that time of year. But the speedway knew the scribes would be looking for something to do so they set up several competitions from time-to-time, ranging from changing a tire under pit stop conditions to fishing in that very same Lake Lloyd.
Ah yes. Fishing. It was 1972 and the scribes were placed in several boats with a un-biased observer on board each craft to judge the catch. Enough suspense. Yours truly won that competition by getting his fish "closest" to the boat.
They had to give the trophy away and nobody ever said sportswriters were great fishermen.
Darrell, may your contestants have much better luck and good luck to the tournament.