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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