Dan Gurney, an accomplished and versatile racer whose pioneering innovations in race car manufacturing played an integral role in motorsports, died Sunday at age 86 of complications from pneumonia.
Gurney won seven IndyCar races, five NASCAR Cup races and four Formula 1 races from 1962 to 1970, and he teamed with A.J. Foyt to win the 1967 24 Hours of Le Mans. Mario Andretti and Juan Pablo Montoya are the only other drivers to have wins in the top levels of Formula 1, IndyCar, NASCAR and sports cars.
"With one last smile on his handsome face, Dan drove off into the unknown just before noon today," the Gurney family said in a statement. "In deepest sorrow, with gratitude in our hearts for the love and joy you have given us during your time on this earth, we say 'Godspeed.'"
"Dan Gurney was not only a great innovator, he was a great driver and it didn't matter if it was a road course or an oval, an Indy car or a stock car," said Foyt via statement. "I never use the word legend but in the case of Dan, he was a true legend of our sport. We became close friends at Le Mans in '67 and winning it brought us closer together. He was a super guy. Even though we were competitors in the Indy cars, we always respected each other highly.
"As we got older we became closer, calling each other on birthdays or when we were sick. Now I'm glad we got to spend the time together we did at Long Beach last year along with Edsel Ford. We told a lot of stories and we had a lot of fun talking about the old times. It's hard to believe he's gone and I'm really going to miss him. My thoughts are with Evi and his family."
Racing legend Mario Andretti offered condolences on Twitter.
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 #DanGurneyHasFinishedTheRace pic.twitter.com/twMkM2Mn0U— Mario Andretti (@MarioAndretti) January 14, 2018
Gurney began racing in 1955 and won in nearly every racing series he attempted. He drove for Ferrari, BRM, Porsche and Brabham in Formula One, then formed his own team. He won the Belgian Grand Prix in 1967 in his own car, the first and only time an American won an F1 race in a car of his own design.
Gurney retired from driving in 1970 with 51 victories.
A Long Island native, Gurney was responsible for creating the wicker bill still used in race cars as well as the aviation industry. He also was one of the first to start using a full-face helmet.
Gurney was one of the founders of the Championship Auto Racing Teams, which sanctioned open-wheel races from 1979 to 2008.
"When we talk about legendary American drivers, owners and car constructors on an international stage, Dan Gurney is one of the all-time greats," J. Douglas Boles, president of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, said in a statement. "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."
"The word 'legend' can sometimes be overused, but in describing Daniel Sexton Gurney, it's the only word that fits," IMSA President Scott Atherton said. "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."
Gurney won the inaugural Daytona Continental at Daytona International Speedway in 1962. The race is known today as the Rolex 24.
"Dan's success -- and his sheer presence -- helped elevate our facility to the world-wide stature that our founder, Bill France Sr., originally envisioned," track president Chip Wile said in a statement. "As a driver, this man helped establish the speedway as a pre-eminent road-racing circuit. Years later, as a champion car owner in IMSA, he helped cement the speedway's legacy in that regard. We all are fortunate to have crossed his path."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.