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:
https://t.co/Bxp4etpyc7 I just heard that my hero passed away today…Daniel Sexton Gurney. This is so sad and my thoughts, prayers and love to the Gurney family. Dan was one of the Titans of the sport. Godspeed Dan…I’m sure you’ll be pushing the envelope in heaven.
RIP Dan Gurney. I was first inspired by him when I was in midgets dreaming of being like him. I was last inspired by him yesterday. Yes, I mean forever. He understood me better than anyone else, which is why he wrote the foreword for my book in 2001 #DanGurneyHasFinishedTheRacepic.twitter.com/twMkM2Mn0U
In a four week stretch of summer of 1967, Dan Gurney started on the front row of the Indy 500, won the 24 Hours of Le Mans (and invented the champagne spray) and then won the Belgian Grand Prix in a car he designed. Let that sink in… #OneOff
What a story Dan Gurney gave to us. A racer to the core in everything he did, he epitomized all that makes motorsport special, that can make it more than just cars going around on Sunday afternoons. No one else did it quite like Dan. #BigEagle
Dan Gurney is responsible (a great deal I might add) for pushing IndyCar in the direction it wound up going. His "White Paper" is almost as important as the beautiful "Eagles" he designed for various forms of auto racing.
RIP to Dan Gurney an American Legend and a hero of mine. I’ll never forget the 1993 24 Hours of Daytona when my dad, PJ Jones and Rocky Moran won the race in Dan’s All American Racers Toyota GTP car. #legend
Dan Gurney passed away today. What Baby Boomer motorhead didn't consider him their ultimate hero? I consider myself one of them and will always value the times I interviewed him at various racing venues. Belongs on the Mt. Rushmore of Racing. Peace.
More than an icon, Dan Gurney did as much for racing as any individual ever has. It is with much sadness that we send our sincerest condolences to his family with the news of his passing. Racing has lost a friend and leader. He will be sorely missed.#dangurney#aar#nascar#f1pic.twitter.com/r1cTY33dxd
INDIANAPOLIS – Will Power went on his “Victory Lap” last week to celebrate his second career championship as the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series champion.
It began with several media interviews in Monterey, California, the day after he won the championship with a third-place finish in the Sept. 11 Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey.
From there, it was off to Los Angeles for more interviews and personal appearances that included a VIP Tour at the Petersen Automotive Museum, several appearances on SiriusXM and lunch at The Ivy, where the Team Penske IndyCar Series driver was treated to Wagyu Beef.
“It was one of the best steaks I’ve ever had in my life,” Power told NBCSports.com.
From L.A. back to Power’s North Carolina home, near Team Penske’s home base of Mooresville, there was one stop left on Sept. 17 — the Victory Lap Celebration at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, an invitation-only banquet where Power and his No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet crew at Team Penske were honored for the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series championship.
They didn’t even have to check into a hotel and spend another night on the road. Power and his team left on a Team Penske plane from the Statesville, N.C., airport at 4 p.m. ET Saturday to fly to Indianapolis. On arrival an hour later, a limo bus took the team to IMS.
Power led the 2022 season with five NTT P1 Awards for pole, earning the NTT P1 Award as the best qualifier of the season for the fifth time in his career. Power also made history with his 68th career pole, breaking the all-time mark held by the legendary Mario Andretti.
Power and Scott Dixon also became just two of only five drivers to complete every lap of every race in IndyCar Series history.
“What a year,” Power said as he was awarded his personal Astor Cup trophy (the second in his collection after the 2014 championship. “What a phenomenal year coming off one of my worst seasons personally. We came back with a vengeance.
“I want to thank Roger and Kathy Penske for everything they have done for me over the years. I wouldn’t be standing here and have the numbers I have without what Roger has done for me. I’m given a car every week that is capable of winning the pole, races, championships, and Indianapolis 500s. I’m so grateful for that.
“Also, to Greg Penske, you are there every week now at every event and I know we will be in good hands moving forward with the Penske Family.”
There are many on Power’s team and at home, that helped support Power throughout his career. None is bigger than Power’s wife, Liz, who told Power before the season that he would win the championship and break Andretti’s record.
“I must thank my wife. I’m so lucky to have a wife with that crystal ball that can tell me what is going to happen,” Power said. “I can’t think you enough, babe. I love you so much and you have been a big support to me my whole career. We’ve been together 17 years, and I’ve been in the series 17 years. She has been such a huge support to me. The mother of our child and she is a fantastic mother.
“She can’t tell the future. She just had faith in me.”
Liz Power’s premonition came true and that allowed Power and his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet team to celebrate Penske’s 17th IndyCar championship and 42nd title in the racing team’s history.
“The 12 crew this year, I’ve never had such a great group of guys,” Power said. “Trevor Lacasse (chief mechanic) is such a calm guy, but he does such a meticulous job on the preparation of the car. He is very, very good at keeping the whole crew happy. It feels as if there is no pressure on us. That’s a huge part in getting the most out of people. It was our first year together with you as a crew chief. What a great year to start our relationship.
“Dave Faustino (Power’s longtime engineer), we’ve worked together for 15 years. He’s almost like a wife to me, a partner … apart from sleeping together. We have a very good working relationship. Sorry Dave, I’m an awkward person and you are not.
“The things we have been through in our years together, it’s crazy that we continually improve and get better. We are standing on the podium after winning the championship and we are talking about the car, the race, and the tires. We weren’t talking about the championship.
“We never stop. The other boys were laughing at us, but I’m already thinking about next year.
“Ron Ruzewski (Team Penske IndyCar Managing Director and strategist) on the radio, always calm. He has actually made me a calm person. I rarely get upset on the radio anymore.”
“This series is growing,” Power said. “With open wheel racing now so popular because of Formula One, it’s really our time to push and put money behind it and go now and take IndyCar to another level because we have the best racing product in the world.
“I have to thank my teammates and (Team Penske president) Tim Cindric. I can’t tell you how hard we push each other. We are ultracompetitive and love each other and push each other hard, so thank you.”
Power won the championship by 16 points over hard-charging teammate Josef Newgarden, who finished second in the standings for the third year in a row.
“Overall, I’m filled with a lot of pride for our team and what we were able to do this year,” Newgarden said in his banquet address. “Any year that you step in the championship, you can easily see the challenges it presents everybody.
“It’s a very difficult challenge for the teams and drivers. To be a part of it, make it through it and for us at Team Penske, to topple it, is a very big deal. We’re all competitive.
“The tough thing about being in a championship fight, especially with teammates is we all want to be the best. That’s how it should be. We are competitive people and want to be the best. But it’s a team sport.
“Will, tremendous season, great, great job. I think the world of everybody on our team. It’s a big group. I’m so happy for all of you on the 12-car crew. There is so much we can take into next year.”
Six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon was unable to attend the banquet because of the Goodwood Festival in England but sent congratulations to Power via a video message.
“I really want to congratulate Will Power,” Dixon said. “You drove a tremendous season this year. Even with some of the lows that you had, some of the mistakes with qualifying, you bounced back tremendously. I know how tough these championships are and to see you do it in the style that you did it in the last race of the season, massive congratulations.”
Power’s championship formula included one victory, nine podiums and 12 top-five finishes. Teammate Josef Newgarden was second in the championship with five wins but only six podiums.
Cindric saluted Power’s season in accepting the championship team owner award.
“Will, you took it to another level this year,” Cindric said. “You are the complete package. You completed every lap, had nine podiums, finished out of the top 10 just four times, broke Mario Andretti’s record, and you did it all without cussing at the officials on national TV.
“One complaint I do has is while most of us think you might be from another planet, you never told us your wife was a fortune teller.”
Cindric also honored the seasons of Penske drivers Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin, who won three times in his second full season (“You are one of only two full-time IndyCar drivers that has driven for us in the past 23 years that hasn’t won an Indy 500 or an IndyCar championship. Your time is coming.”).
Kyle Moyer was named team manager of the year (his fifth time and Penske’s sixth). Pennzoil presented Lacasse with the chief mechanic of the year for the first time, the sixth time for Team Penske. The No. 12 crew also won the Firestone Pit Performance Award for the most pit stop performance award points in 2022.
Power, Newgarden and McLaughlin delivered nine of Chevrolet’s series-leading 11 victories this season, helping Chevy win the Manufacturer Award for the seventh time since it returned to the series in 2012 and the first time since 2017. Jim Danahy, U.S. vice president, Competition Motorsports Engineering for Chevrolet, accepted the award on behalf of his team.
Christian Lundgaard was honored as the 2022 NTT IndyCar rookie of the year. Lundgaard, from Denmark, scored one podium, two top-five finishes and seven top-10s in the No. 30 Honda fielded by Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. He edged David Malukas of Dale Coyne Racing with HMD by 18 points in the standings for first-year series drivers.
“It’s been a tough season and looking at how it panned out, we struggled so much at the beginning of the season and how we were able to turn it around means so much to me and the team,” Lundgaard said. “It’s the one thing that you only get one shot at. I’m happy to have it.
“Being the first Dane at the Indy 500 certainly helps. Competing here for me is quite important and also special. To win this award and to be here in future years means so much to me. I have a chance to compete for wins and championships.
“This team gave me this opportunity at this track one year ago. We came back and got redemption. We got our first podium here. This year was 40 years ago that Bobby Rahal won the same award. It’s pretty special to keep it among the team.”
Sweden’s Linus Lundqvist was honored as Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires champion after a dominant season for HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing. Lundqvist won a series-high five races in the No. 26 HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing entry and clinched the Lights championship with a race to spare, ending with a 92-point advantage over Sting Ray Robb. HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing owners Henry and Daiva Malukas accepted the team championship.
“I’m very proud of that,” Lundqvist said. “It’s cool to see. We are starting to look to the future, and this might not be doing too bad. It’s been great. As most of you can guess with Henry and Daiva Malukas (team owners), it’s been an incredible journey. So much fun that we’ve had. To be on the grid this year was so much of a struggle for us. I didn’t even know I would be doing this until January.
“To be able to pull out the season that we had, I cannot thank this team enough. We will celebrate this for a long time. I’m so happy and proud about that.”
“When I think of Dr. Billows, I think of two words,” IndyCar president Jay Frye said. “One is selfless and the other is tough. He’s gone through a lot these last couple of years, and he didn’t want anybody to know. He’s an amazing man, and we are very grateful for what you have done.”
Billows was presented with a framed checkered flag signed by all drivers in the series as well as other IndyCar officials and dignitaries.
“I was not expecting this at all,” Billows said. “This means so much for me to be part of this family for the past 30 years. I’ve been presented with opportunities I never thought I would ever have. I can’t tell you how much I love all of you guys and care for all of you guys.
“Thank you so much. I want to also thank my wife, Tammy, who has been a pillar of strength as I continue on this journey with cancer for the past two years as well. You will still see me as a consultant because I love this too much to quit altogether.”
When the evening concluded, Team Penske boarded a bus to the airport for the short return flight to Statesville. They were home by midnight.
Power’s Victory Lap was complete.
“The best thing about this is I get to sleep in my own bed tonight,” Power said.