Racing legend Dan Gurney earns one of rarest and most prestigious awards for lifetime achievements (video)

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Very few race car drivers deserve to be called “legendary.”

Dan Gurney is most definitely one of those.

That’s why the truly legendary Gurney was honored Wednesday at the Henry Ford Museum, receiving the prestigious Edison-Ford Medal for his lifetime achievements.

The ceremony was presented by The Henry Ford organization.

With other motorsports legends such as Roger Penske and Sir Jackie Stewart looking on, Gurney was praised for all that he’s brought to the racing world as a driver, team owner, car builder and innovator.

“It is a great honor to award the Edison-Ford Medal to Mr. Gurney, whose success and contributions both on and off the race track have played a pivotal role in shaping American auto racing into what it is today,” said Patricia Mooradian, president of The Henry Ford. “We are very privileged at The Henry Ford to be able to share his inspiring story of ingenuity and innovation through our collections with our visitors every day.”

Having driven his first race car in 1955, Gurney’s affiliation with Ford Racing was front-and-center in the ceremonies, as well. In a press release, Ford Racing officials noted:

“Gurney is also tied to several automobiles that are part of The Henry Ford’s world premier automotive collection, including the 1962 Ford Mustang I Concept Car driven at Watkins Glen, the 1965 Lotus-Ford Race Car that Jim Clark used to win the 1965 Indianapolis 500, and the 1967 Ford Mark IV Race Car, used for perhaps his most famous win at the 1967 24 Hours of LeMans. After winning that race, Gurney famously sprayed the crowd with champagne, starting a racing tradition.”

 

RACER magazine also hailed Gurney’s litany of achievements and accomplishments in a story that appeared on its web site:

“He had raced in 312 events in 20 countries for 51 different marques (more than 100 different models of car) and won 51 races. Gurney scored victories in four major categories: Indy cars, Formula 1 cars, NASCAR stock cars and sports cars. He won the 1967 Grand Prix of Belgium in an Eagle Gurney-Westlake V12, a car he helped design and build. He was twice runner-up in the Indianapolis 500.

“Following his retirement as a driver, he took on the role of car manufacturer and team owner of All American Racers. His Eagles won the Indianapolis 500 three times – twice with Bobby Unser, 1968 and ’75 (with Gurney as the team owner) and Gordon Johncock triumphed in a Pat Patrick-run Eagle at Indy in ’73. Cars built and designed by AAR also won the 12 Hours of Sebring and 24 Hours of Daytona.

“The multi-dimensional Gurney was the first to introduce a full-faced helmet (Bell) to Indy car and F1 racing in the late 1960s.”

Interestingly, Gurney is only the second recipient of the Edison-Ford Medal, and the first in 25 years when Dr. W. Edwards Deming, the so-called “Father of the Quality Evolution” was the inaugural winner in 1989, when the award was established on the 60th anniversary of The Henry Ford.

“This is truly an amazing, humbling award,” Gurney said, according to RACER. “It is a great legacy to be part of this award – the names Edison and Ford say it all. Because of them, so many things we do today are easy and possible. They were pioneers, they made the USA a great place.”

But perhaps the best line of his acceptance speech was when master of ceremonies Charlie Rose asked Gurney if the 1967 victory in the 24 Hours of LeMans – with co-driver and fellow legend A.J. Foyt – was the highlight of his career (the duo hit an unheard of 213 mph in their Ford GT40 Mark IV.

“You bet it is!” Gurney said with a big smile on his face, according to Racer, resulting in a huge round of applause. “By the middle 1960s, I knew I could drive a car as fast as any no-good turkey in the world. I knew then that I could probably make it.”

Check out the outstanding video below of Gurney’s career, as narrated by NBC’s Brian Williams.

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IndyCar’s ‘Phoenix’ flying into 2023 season: Romain Grosjean enjoying the pilot’s life

IndyCar Romain Grosjean pilot
Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment
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PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – The IndyCar driver known as “The Phoenix” already has taken flight before the 2023 season, and newly licensed pilot Romain Grosjean also got a head start on the opener.

Fulfilling a dream several years in the making, the Andretti Autosport plunged into aviation training over the offseason. Since beginning with online studying last August, Grosjean quickly progressed to earning his licenses for multiengine planes and instrument ratings while completing 115 hours of flight time.

He has landed twice at Albert Whitted Airport, whose primary runway also doubles as the front straightaway on the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg street course.

“Just to land on the start-finish line, that was pretty cool,” Grosjean said during IndyCar Preseason Content Days ahead of the Feb. 2-3 test at The Thermal Club. “The air traffic control guy was like, “Yeah, left on Acre Five, turn, and then back. I was like, ‘Oh, yeah, that’s the last corner of the racetrack, I’ll take it and go back to the pit lane. He was like, ‘Oh, yeah, yeah, that’s true.’ So it was quite funny.”

Grosjean, 36, said he had wanted to become a pilot since he was 30 but was discouraged by Europe’s complicated and time-consuming licensing process (“to go to ground school twice a week, and with our life, it’s impossible”). He was inspired again last year by (now former) teammate Alexander Rossi, who flew to some 2022 races after earning his license a couple of years ago.

“I thought that was pretty cool,” said Grosjean, who had grown “bored of waiting in the airports.”

He plans to fly to nearly all the races this year (“if the weather is good enough, I’ll be flying”) and jokes about being “commercial by the end of the year, so then I can take Roger (Penske). Roger can pay me to fly him around to races if things go bad with racing.”

Grosjean’s social media has been filled with posts about his new hobby, which afforded him the opportunity recently to take his wife to Key West for lunch from their home in the Miami area.

The trip took 37 minutes there and 41 minutes on return and highlighted why Grosjean loves flying: “Freedom. Freedom to go anywhere you want, anytime you want. It’s the beauty of it. We can go to the Bahamas for a day if we want to. Anywhere. I think that’s just great to know that you can do whatever you want.”

It’s reminiscent of the cross-country trip across the Midwest in an RV that Grosjean took with his family during the summer of his 2021 rookie season.

“There’s one thing that I told my kids, and I told my friend about America, and for me, that’s the biggest difference between Europe and here, is here everything is possible,” said Grosjean (whose “Phoenix” nickname was derived from a brush with death in his final Formula One start). “If you have the wish, if you give yourself the possibility of doing it, everything is possible. It is different in Europe. Much more boundaries on the way. Much more steps that you need to do in a certain order. But if you want to be extraordinary (in the United States), if you want to do something different, you don’t need to do those steps because you can work through.

“Yeah, I like doing things, and when I do them, I like doing them well. But here I think just the opportunity of driving the RV, flying planes, for my kids to do whatever they want to do, we love that here. Yeah, it’s been the best discovery for us.”

The Swiss-born Frenchman already has flown himself to a race this year, jetting up the Florida coast for his Rolex 24 at Daytona debut last month. It was his debut as a Lamborghini factory driver, and his new deal will continue with the Twelve Hours of Sebring and possibly the Petit Le Mans while he also helps develop the automaker’s new hybrid prototype (LMDh) for next year.

Grosjean finished a disappointing 13th in the 2022 points standings with one podium for Andretti in his first full IndyCar season. The team showed improvement at Thermal, and Grosjean (who was fourth fastest on Day 1) said IndyCar will remain his priority in 2024.

But he hopes the IndyCar schedule will afford racing in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship endurance races and perhaps his longest plane flight yet — a return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

“I’ll keep my fingers crossed like that we get the weekend off from IndyCar,” said Grosjean, noting that 10 IndyCar drivers were in the Rolex 24. “I think it would make a lot of sense. I think for both series it’s amazing. If we can get Le Mans, it’s also amazing because it’s just cool.

“I remember Mario flying across the Atlantic doing Monaco and the Indy 500, and those guys, they were racing everywhere, Formula 3, Formula 2, Formula 1. They were doing the races in opening of the Formula 1 race, and I think that’s very cool for us. So yeah, looking forward to the project. There’s going to be a lot of development coming on. By the time we finish the IndyCar season, the LMDh will be here in the States, and that’s when I’m going to spend a lot of time on it.”