Following his death, all you had to do was look at just a few of the tributes that came in to see his incredible impact on the sport of auto racing. Drivers throughout a number of different racing series, including Dale Earnhardt Jr., Darrell Waltrip, and Mario Andretti, immediately took to Twitter to show their respect for Gurney’s legacy.
The Life and Career of Dan Gurney
To the casual racing fan, the name Dan Gurney may not ring any bells. But, over the course of his illustrious and diverse career, he solidified himself as one of the most profound game changers in auto racing history.
Born Daniel Sexton Gurney in Port Jefferson, New York, the iconic race car driver moved with his family to Riverside, California as a teenager, where he began his obsession with drag racing, sports cars, and eventually, stock car racing. Gurney’s love of motorsports from an early age ended up manifesting itself into a career that books have been written about.
Along with Mario Andretti and Juan Pablo Montoya, Gurney was the first of only three drivers to ever win races in Sports Cars, Formula 1, NASCAR, and IndyCar. Gurney, who also competed in the Can-Am and Trans-Am Series, won five IndyCar races (though he could never snatch up that elusive Indy 500 win), seven Cup Series races, and four Formula One World Championship races. Gurney also won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1967, after which he popularized the post-win custom of spraying champagne at the podium. The guy was definitely a trailblazer.
Gurney was also known for his partnership with Carroll Shelby, who teamed up with Shelby to form All-American Racers. As the team owner of AAR (1970-2011), Gurney became the first driver to put a simple right-angle extension on the upper trailing edge of the rear wing. This invention later became known as the Gurney flap and became effective in increasing downforce while imposing only a small increase in aerodynamic drag.
Having raced for such teams as Ferrari, BRM, Porsche, Lotus, Brabham, Eagle, and McLaren over the course of his career, Gurney’s impact was felt both in Europe as well as the United States. There’s no doubt that Dan Gurney set the stage for a number of racing greats that came after him. May he rest in peace.