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Darrell Gwynn, and a salute to the human spirit and determination

Thirty years ago today, the driving career of Top Fuel star Darrell Gwynn was cut short in a tragic racing accident in England that left him paralyzed. Three decades later, Gwynn shares an inspirational message accompanied by our photographic look back at his career.
15 Apr 2020
Posted by NHRA.com staff

by Darrell Gwynn

Today is a very important and emotional day for me. You see, it was 30 years ago today, on April 15, 1990, that I became paralyzed. I was in England racing my car and going more than 200 mph when it crashed. When I close my eyes, I can still hear the sound of the engine and the excitement of the crowd. I can smell the rubber from the tires and the nitro in the air. I can feel the nerves in my stomach that came each time I would get into the car. I can still feel the force of driving 200-plus mph pushing against my seat as I raced down the track.

And I remember the moment right before I crashed.

Now, three decades later, I live in a world that sees us ALL joined in a new kind of paralysis via the current COVID-19 pandemic. I feel blessed to have survived the crash and be alive today. But 30 years later, I am still paralyzed. I am still haunted by the memories of that day that forever changed my life.

No matter who or where you are, whether social, emotional, or financial, in a way we all share a world of living in a restricted/paralyzed state.

Through the course of the past month, we have all run the range of unforeseen personal questions including, sheer panic, to how am I going to earn a living? How will I support my family? Will I lose my job? Am I mentally and physically prepared for this? It’s ironic as these were questions, I asked myself 30 years ago.

READ MORE: Darrell Gwynn, No. 32 of Top NHRA Drivers (2000 article)

With everyone being confined in their house, in some ways is like being paralyzed in your house, as I have been for 30 years now in my wheelchair. My condition is not unique. While you read this there are millions around the world living with paralysis from a spinal cord injury. Most of you, while confined, are still able to walk and hug your loved ones. When this is over you will do those things again.

How we take care of ourselves mentally and physically determines how we all surpass this challenge. This pertains equally to those of us living with paralysis, and all of us collectively as we get through the threat of this pandemic.

I’ve lived paralyzed for 30 years. There are many who have dealt with it longer, and a lot who didn’t make it through at all. Regardless, know for sure that life as we know it will not be the same going forward.

At The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, we remain laser-focused on finding a permanent cure. Now is not the time to seek a donation, but when the world clears this uncertain time, I hope you will consider helping the rest of us who live with physical paralysis join the ranks of the uninjured.

Wishing you and your loved ones peace, safety, and lasting good health.

With much gratitude,