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History Hits: Remembering American Racing Legend Dan Gurney, 1931-2018

Gurney

Sunday, January 14th, 2018 the automotive world lost a legend, in the form of American racer Dan Gurney. Gurney was the first racer in the world to achieve wins in Formula One, NASCAR, and IndyCar among other series. He was 86.

Dan Gurney was the son of a Metropolitan Opera singer, and the grandson of the man who invented the Gurney ball bearing. Interested in automobiles from an early age, he reportedly honed his driving skills weaving through the orange groves of Southern California. After graduating a local SoCal college, he served two years in the U.S. Army as an artillery mechanic in the Korean War.

News of Gurney’s passing hit twitter on Sunday evening, with driver and team owner Bobby Rahal posting the following tweet:Dan Gurney’s wife later confirmed the report by giving a statement to Racer.com:

““With one last smile on his handsome face, Dan drove off into the unknown just before noon today, January 14, 2018,” Gurney’s wife Evi and family said in a statement. “In deepest sorrow, with gratitude in our hearts for the love and joy you have given us during your time on this earth, we say ‘Godspeed.’”

Racing
Ever looking the gentleman, even behind the wheel.

Dan Gurney sat behind the wheel at a time when a generation of world-class drivers was emerging, taking to the track alongside legends such as Sir Jackie Stewart, Sir Stirling Moss, Jim Clark, and many more. This did not seem to effect Gurney, as he would drive the wheels off of anything that people would let him fire up. Across the span of his legendary driving career Gurney would race and win in Formula One, IndyCar, NASCAR, Can-Am, Trans-Am, and more.

Rewarded for his accomplishments with a spot in the Automotive Hall of Fame in 2007, Dan Gurney’s racing career did not cease when he retired from the driver’s seat, as he was also a team owner and manufactuer himself. In 1966 he started his team, All-American Racing (AAR), although his greatest achievement would come the following year in 1967.

Winning
He won. A lot. Not counting when he raced under other teams, his own team AAR, won 78 total victories across the spectrum of open-wheel racing.

Alongside A.J. Foyt, Gurney put in a sublime racing effort for Ford at the 1967 24hrs of LeMans. After winning, he performed an action which would become synonymous with motorsport victories: he sprayed the podium with a bottle of champagne.

Dan Gurney began producing his own race cars in 1967 as well, competing in, and winning, the Belgian Grand Prix in his own car, the Eagle Mk. 1. During his construction and racing career, Dan was responsible for a number of innovations. Among these are the adoption of closed face racing helmets, the aerodynamic ‘Gurney Flap’, and the writing of the infamous 1978 ‘White Paper’ which represented a mutiny to open-wheel racing in America, and called for a total overhaul of the system.

Flap
The Gurney Flap does good things for the aerodynamics of a car. Good things. Honestly, I don’t really understand the black-magic that is the world of aerodynamics.

Gurney is survived by his wife Evi and his sons Justin, Alex, Jimmy, and Dan Jr. Dan Gurney will be put to rest at a small and private funeral per his wishes.

To see some of his cars, visit the Petersen Automotive Museum and see their entire room dedicated to Mr. Dan Gurney, American racing legend. (The display may have been changed). Below are some pictures from the exhibit:

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If you have any questions about any of his vehicles pictured, make sure to ask in the comments and I will try my best to detail it.


Like the article? Want to read more like it? Check out my website thespeedtrap.net, for weekly history articles and more besides. If I missed something or if you have a question, feel free to leave a comment below, and don’t forget to hit the like button.

Stephen Hyden View All

I recently recieved a degree in History from the University of Nevada, Reno.

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