There wasn’t an area of four-wheeled motorsports that Dan Gurney didn’t touch and have an impact upon.
From Formula 1 to IndyCar, NASCAR to sports cars, he was arguably the most prolific and versatile driver ever made. No matter what the circuit, he was able to master it, turning it into countless wins and numerous championships.
If it had a a steering wheel and four wheels, Gurney was its master.
Sadly, the legendary driver and team owner passed away Sunday at the age of 86 after a bout with pneumonia. But he leaves a legacy that was celebrated by countless of his peers in both testominies and social media.
While the following list is long, it’s actually just a small portion of the countless individuals Gurney impacted in their own lives, from fellow competitors to fans, and the love and respect they returned in kind:
* F1 announcer David Hobbs: “In 1963 I was driving in only my third open wheel race, a Formula Junior support race to a F1 race at Silverstone. I had a fantastic race, coming in second by about three feet to Denny Hulme, who was World Champ four years later.
“After the race I was walking across the Paddock and one of my heroes, the great Dan Gurney, stopped me to congratulate me on a great race. How the hell he even knew who I was was amazing. Anyway, he congratulated me and added some wise words of advice and encouragement for my career. I was flabbergasted and very nervous. It was just a very brief moment, but for me it made a huge impression for the rest of my life.”
* NBC announcer Leigh Diffey: “What more can one say about the man who gave us the champagne spray on the podium? I wonder how many of today’s racing heroes realize that was just one of the many wonderful elements that comprise the fabric of Dan Gurney’s legacy.
“And, how fitting it was that Dan’s son, Alex, won the GRAND-AM Rolex Sportscar Series Daytona Prototype championship in 2007 – 40 years after Dan won and sprayed the champagne at the 24 hours of Le Mans and a week later the Belgian Formula One Grand Prix.
“Dan was one of the nicest human beings you could ever meet and when you did spend time in his presence you felt warmth, sincerity and greatness. Sadly, we won’t get to see people like Dan Gurney and Sir Jack Brabham again. Pioneers who had the courage, conviction and intelligence to do what they did is so rare. Designing, building, racing and winning in a car that was yours was nothing short of phenomenal.
“So many drivers nowadays are known or become megastars for their driving and/or their off-track antics and behavior. Dan Gurney will always be remembered for what he did on and off the track but long before the internet and social media. Driving excellence, engineering excellence and personal excellence; the Gurney name meant and still means so much. Integrity is a powerful word that immediately comes to mind.
“Back in the SPEED days there were a few of us who had the privilege to be a part of the SPEED Performer of the Year awards. There was always a conference call and, with due respect to the others involved, the headliners on the call were Mario Andretti and Dan Gurney. Mario basically ran the call as it was the Mario Andretti trophy, but let me tell you when Dan spoke, you could have heard a pin drop. The respect for man was, still is and always will be immense. I remember calling Tommy Kendall afterwards and discussing our joy at being on a closed call like that.
“As members of the motorsport community we owe it do Dan, his wife Evi and the Gurney family to ensure future generations never forget who he was, what he achieved and what he represented. He loved his family, employees, team, the sport and America. Tough, fair and one of a kind!”
* NBC commentator Townsend Bell: “One of the greatest men I¹ve ever known.
“He did it all with intelligence, excellence, grace, and humility.
“I’m thankful to have been given the opportunity to watch and learn how great the human spirit can be through his example.
“I’ll miss him dearly.”
* Indianapolis Motor Speedway President J. Douglas Boles: “When we talk about legendary American drivers, owners and car constructors on an international stage, Dan Gurney is one of the all-time greats. His skill in all three areas helped him make an indelible mark and serve as a huge influence in this sport. Dan was a giant in the racing world, in every sense. Our sincere condolences and prayers are with his wife, Evi, and the entire Gurney family. Godspeed, Dan Gurney.”
* IMSA President Scott Atherton: “The word ‘legend’ can sometimes be overused, but in describing Daniel Sexton Gurney, it’s the only word that fits. Dan Gurney was an American racing legend who accomplished nearly all there was to accomplish as a driver in our sport, from sports cars to NASCAR, Indy cars to Formula 1. Dan was an innovative car builder and a lifelong steward of motorsports beyond his on-track performance.
“In the world of IMSA, a championship-winning team owner with his All American Racers team, and in later years, his son, Alex, would become a driving champion as well in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series.
“On behalf of everybody at IMSA, we extend our most sincere condolences to Dan’s wife, Evi, and his entire family. We also extend our thoughts and prayers to Dan’s many friends and associates. We’re confident he’s spraying champagne in heaven right now. Godspeed, Dan.”
And here is just a sampling from the motorsports world of fellow racing greats and fans alike: