When I was twelve or thirteen years old, my dad put a “Dan Gurney For President” bumper sticker on our family suburban. At the time, his best friend was running for governor of the state of Texas and now, I thought, his pal Dan was running for president? I wasn’t much more politically motivated then than I am now, so I just sort of blew it off in my mind.
Later that year, we went to the Indy 500 and sat with Dan during part of the race. I asked him how his presidential bid was going and he instantly fired a stink eye to my dad who was by then rolling with laughter. Dan was genuinely pissed.
One of Dan’s first hot rods in the late 1940’s was the ’32 5W featured on the top of this post. It had hot a flathead and even then, Dan could drive his ass off. This is really when Dan’s reputation as a driver began to grow… and Dan was really uncomfortable with it. So much so, that he sold the 5W and got a more subtle ’35 Sedan so as not to garner so much damned attention.
I guess it’s these two stories that really lead me to admiring Dan so much. He was a legend. The Andrettis have nothing on him. The Unsers don’t either. And neither do the Foyts for that matter… As far as Americans in motorsports go, he is the pinnacle of the profession. And yet, he never wanted anyone to recognize him as such. He just wanted to be a hot rodder.
To me, he leaves behind the ultimate legacy not only because of what he achieved, but because of how he did it and how he handled the admiration that came afterwards.
So long Mr. Gurney.