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Dan Gurney, the first driver to win each of the Formula One, IndyCar and NASCAR Cup series, died Sunday (January 14) from complications of pneumonia at the age of 86.
“With one last smile on his handsome face, Dan drove off into the unknown just before noon today,” a statement from his wife, Evi Gurney, read.
“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.”
Gurney was truly a racing pioneer, paving the way for future racers as he won nearly every racing series he attempted. He began racing in 1955 and 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 is often credited with starting the tradition of spraying the champagne from the podium at that race.
Gurney retired from driving in 1970 with 51 victories.
“When we talk about legendary American drivers, owners and car constructors on an international stage, Dan Gurney is one of the all-time greats,” Indianapolis Motor Speedway President J. Douglas Boles 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.”
NASCAR great Mario Andretti honored Gurney with a Twitter post, saying, “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.”
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
Our thoughts and prayers are with Dan Gurney’s family and friends.