St. Patrick’s Day is Sunday. But for Johnna Dunn and her family, it’s Thanksgiving time.
The clutch specialist for her grandfather Jim Dunn’s Funny Car said she wants to thank everyone for their prayers, wishes, and messages of support following her starting-line injury during the Magic Dry NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park. She’s recovering from a nose broken in two places and accompanying bruising caused by a random projectile. But she’ll be back in action, working on the family-operated Funny Car at this weekend’s Amalie Oil Gatornationals at Gainesville, Fla.
“I was going a little stir-crazy. I wanted to go back to work, get back to the shop and school. But the messages and prayers I got, they really helped a lot. It meant a lot to me. It was really nice of everybody,” Johnna Dunn said.
Dozens of well-wishers across the nation – including former NHRA senior vice-president Graham Light and Tom Hernquist, the president of marketing partner Oberto – lifted her spirits.
“We just want to say thanks to everyone for their support, all the kind messages and prayers,” dad Jon Dunn, crew chief for the Cattleman’s Cut/Oberto Dodge Charger, said.
“She got a ton of messages from family and friends and lot of fans and NHRA family. Everybody was so extremely supportive. It was overwhelming. With all the social media stuff that she has, text messaging, and telephone calls, everybody said they were going to pray for her and wished her the best. And it worked,” he said. “Johnna’s personal social media, Jim Dunn Racing, myself, my mom, we got inundated with phone calls and all these messages. It was really nice.”
Per doctor’s orders, she missed time from work at St. Jude Medical Center at Temecula, Calif., and wasn’t allowed to drive a car or do anything but rest for a few days. Her father said through the pain, inactivity, and isolation from her usual surroundings, friends, and colleagues, “All the messages helped her feel better every day.”
Jon Dunn confirmed his daughter’s nose was broken in two places. But he said doctors are in a wait-and-see mode regarding potential surgery.
“The good thing about it is the bones are still in alignment. She was very, very fortunate with that. They had to wait for the swelling to go down. They said they did not want to mess with that because the bones did not move at all – which was surprising to the doctors. She saw three different specialists, and all three said the same thing,” Jon Dunn said.
Johnna Dunn still might need to undergo an outpatient procedure to repair the septum, the wall that divides the nasal cavity. That would take place once the fractures have healed.
“There was a lot of black and blue. [That] Sunday and Monday, it looked like she took a baseball right to the side of the face. The bruising and darkness was worse as the days went on, three or four days after. But the swelling’s all gone. The back and blue [coloration from bruises] is all gone. And she’s back to being her beautiful self again,” Jon Dunn said.
Johnna Dunn was struck by some sort of debris that flipped up from the racing surface during driver Jim Campbell’s launch from the starting line during Friday qualifying for the race at Chandler, Ariz. Jon Dunn said he believed it was a piece of rubber. She was standing farther behind the car than were her father and a FOX Sports camera operator.
“She’s going to be careful at the starting line. But when the car actually takes off, she’s going to be seeing it from the other side of the guard rail, just to be safe and make sure we don’t have any reoccurrence, especially while she’s still healing,” her dad said.
“It was just a freak thing. It’s not something that happens regularly. I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said. “It doesn’t normally happen, and I’m surprised it did this time. We’ve just got to take some precautionary measures going into the future. When you’re down there [on the starting line], you’re definitely on the battlefield.
“NHRA has done really well, as far as taking some measures to make it safer and to be more careful with the amount of people on the starting line,” Jon Dunn said. “They have designated areas, and they’ve been very proactive in sending out maps in advance and letting the teams know who’s allowed at the starting line and making sure you have your proper credentials. And there are certain areas where people are allowed to stand, and a restricted area is being enforced, because of the cars and the movement and the tow vehicles and all the moving parts that happen down there.
”Going forward with what they’ve implemented and they’re getting more and more strict with, which I think is fantastic, it’s going to help with these types of problems. It would be easier having a clear playing field, so to speak. If there is something [a foreign object] on the track, they have the opportunity to see it and discard it and clean everything up before anything like this happens,” he said.
“You just have to be super-careful. It’s a hard thing to say, because you enjoy [the sport] so much. You have a passion for it. You don’t want to go without having it. It’s part of the excitement. It’s part of the sport. When you’re with something that goes that fast and that quick, you’re in a situation where something could happen. I’ve heard of people possibly getting hit with something, but nothing like that, nothing of that magnitude,” Jon Dunn said.
“She’s still going to participate,” he said, “but she’s going to be extremely careful throughout the weekend. When the cars do take off, she’ll be either in the back or on the other side of the guard rail.”
— Competition Plus (@competitionplus) January 4, 2019