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Mike Dunn, NHRA analyst, named IHRA president

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Mike Dunn. Photo courtesy IHRA.

The recently vacated president’s chair at the International Hot Rod Association didn’t stay empty for long. IRG Sports + Entertainment, which owns the IHRA, announced this week that Top Fuel and Funny Car veteran Mike Dunn is its new president, replacing Scott Gardner, who abruptly departed two weeks ago.

What’s unusual about the announcement? Only the fact that Dunn has been an on-air face of the larger National Hot Rod Association for some 13 years as a color commentator during ESPN’s coverage of its national events. The IHRA gave no reason for Gardner’s sudden exit, but in a statement announcing Dunn’s appointment, it declared again that it would be making major changes to its “platform,” or business model, with specifics to be released as 2016 goes on. The statement did make clear that the changes are intended to make the IHRA more attractive to the 9-19 age demographic.

“I welcome this new opportunity after so many years in a racecar and in front of the screen at ESPN,” Dunn said in the statement. “I think the vision that IRGSE and the IHRA is pulling together fits a younger and engaged fan base that loves action, speed and the personalities around those elements.”

Dunn is a second-generation nitro racer. His father, Jim Dunn, a hall of fame driver from California who raced a succession of Funny Cars dubbed Fireman’s Quickie. The younger Dunn was a star in his own right, being one of four NHRA drivers (the others being Don Prudhomme, Gary Scelzi and Kenny Bernstein) to have won 10 or more national events in both the Top Fuel and Funny Car categories. He has been a respected on-screen presence for ESPN during its long tenure of telecasting major NHRA races.