A passion fueled by speed

Lathan Goumas -
Ed Dunne, of Crystal Lake, prepares for a race at the Autobahn Country Club in Joliet on Friday, July 11, 2014.
Lathan Goumas - Ed Dunne, of Crystal Lake, prepares for a race at the Autobahn Country Club in Joliet on Friday, July 11, 2014.

Once again, Ed Dunne found himself in the driver’s seat of a race car. This time, it was a Mustang, even though he had recent success racing Porsches. Dunne and his team finished fifth. But the day seemed less about the result and more about the day itself.

July 11 isn’t just another day at the racetrack, it's Dunne’s birthday. And by the off-chance that he didn’t remember, countless people made sure to remind him throughout the day.

“The nicest part of the day was being in the car because people weren’t saying happy birthday to you all the time,” Dunne joked.

It’s no coincidence that Dunne had to hide in the car to avoid people celebrating his 58th birthday. Since the Autobahn Country Club in Joliet first opened, Dunne has been a mainstay at the track.

“It’s like an addiction,” Dunne said, now sitting in his office, one that’s littered with racing history in the form of memorabilia, so much so that it has begun to clutter his desk.

Dunne took up racing at the age of 15, but his interest was sparked at a much younger age. Every birthday, his parents would take him the Milwaukee State Fair Park to watch the race. One birthday, Dunne picked the No. 11 car to win, in accordance with his birthday being July 11. The car Dunne picked won, and he came home with a new plastic crash helmet with goggles.

“Something that a little kid would wear,” he explained.

“They bought that for me, and I got home and took my mom’s cards and put them in my spokes and told everyone I was going to be a race car driver."

Soon enough, cars and racing consumed his life. At Wauconda High School, he took up a work-program class in which he would tow broken-down cars and take out parts that could be used. Even when Dunne didn’t have a car to drive, him and a friend would find a way to attend races. Every weekend, they would hitchhike to Wilmont, Wisconsin, and back on Saturday nights, and then do the same thing on Sunday nights, only this time to Lake Geneva.

“Back in the day, the late 1960s and 1970s, half of the people knew you,” Dunne said. “Especially us because they’d seen us so many times.”

As if cars didn’t hold up enough of his time, in 1991, Dunne rented out a place in McHenry to sell used cars. He moved that store to Crystal Lake in 1995, where his store, Dunne Deals, remains to this day.

“When I say I'm a race fan, I'm a race fan,” he said.

All of this goes into why Dunne isn’t too disappointed with his fifth-place finish July 11.

“Win streaks or losing streaks always end. It’s no big deal. I’m good with everything,” he said.

In the end, Dunne loves to win, but it isn’t the end all be all. The same reason that person after person came up to wish Dunne a happy birthday is the same reason why Dunne is as obsessed with racing today as he was when he first got started – he loves people, particularly people he’s met around racing.

“Most people that go to this stuff have that bond with other people who hold that same interest,” he said. “These people that I meet in the racing circle, these are people that, if you ever watch a NASCAR race, they say it's like family.”

That family might be why Dunne keeps racing on a consistent basis to this day, something he said he plans on doing for a long time.

“I hope to have many other birthdays down there.”

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