Monday, December 1, 2014
The Creative, Innovative and Entrepreneurial Spirit of Dan Gurney -
From The Automobile section of the New York Times -
Dan Gurney, whose considerable achievements as a racing driver were the prelude to a career as one of the more influential forces in motorsports, will be presented with the Edison-Ford Medal by the Henry Ford museum.
The award, established by the museum in 1989, recognizes individuals who “fully leverage the creative, innovative and entrepreneurial spirit that resides in every one of us.” Gurney, 83, is only the second person to receive the medal. The first was W. Edwards Deming, the champion of statistical process control and the person widely credited for Japan’s industrial renaissance in the decade starting in 1950.
Gurney’s driving record included wins in 1950s British sports cars and Ford prototypes in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. He is the only American to win a World Championship Formula One race — the 1967 Belgian Grand Prix — in a car designed and built by his own company, All American Racers.
He was responsible for bringing Ford Motor together with the designer of Lotus cars, Colin Chapman, a move that changed the face of the Indianapolis 500 when Chapman’s rear-engine entries dominated the event. Gurney retired from driving in 1970 to devote all of his time to All American Racers, which is in Santa Ana, Calif.
Born in Port Jefferson, N.Y., his introduction to auto racing was made as a teenage spectator at nearby Freeport Stadium, the quarter-mile paved oval where, Gurney said in a recent telephone interview, “I was infected with the virus.”
His rapid rise through the ranks of Southern California amateur events made Gurney well known to American racing fans, and he went to Europe in 1958. By 1959 he was a driver for the Ferrari factory and also drove for Porsche, BRM, Maserati and for Carroll Shelby’s Cobra and Ford GT teams. The All American Racers website shows that Gurney’s career included 312 starts and 51 victories. He had seven Formula One wins (four in World Championship events) and five wins in six starts with Nascar stock cars. In addition to building cars, Gurney’s team designed, constructed and marketed the Alligator motorcycle.
Gurney’s company designed and built 158 Eagle single-seaters, all bearing a family resemblance to his Formula One machine. The Eagles built for Indianapolis were so successful that in 1979 a total of 21 of the 33 starters at the 500 were built by All American Racers. Gurney’s team also handled Toyota’s American racing interests for several years, winning three championships.
The award ceremony will be held at the Henry Ford museum in Dearborn, Mich., on Oct. 29.