It seems everyone knows who Cale Yarborough is. When you talk about a Cale Spoiler/Spoiler II thoughts immediately go to the Wood Brothers and NASCAR racing with number 21. Mention Dan Gurney and eyes often glaze over. The Gurney Spoiler and Spoiler II cars are much rarer than the Cale cars. Arguably, in addition to having made fewer of them the lack of immediate recognition of who Dan Gurney is to many gearheads could be another reason. Those cars may have been more likely to have been discarded because they did not have the strong NASCAR tie that the Cale cars have.
The following article was “lifted” from the Hemmings web site because it provides an excellent overview of Who Dan Gurney Is!
When it comes to American racing drivers, perhaps none has accomplished more in the span of his career than Dan Gurney. His racing resume includes stints in Formula One, Indy Car, NASCAR and Sports Car racing, with 312 races, 51 wins and 47 podium finishes to his credit. Gurney drove an astonishing 51 makes and more than 100 different models over his professional driving career, and has the distinction of being the first driver to post wins in Formula One, Indy Car, NASCAR and Sports Car racing (a feat since duplicated by Mario Andretti and Juan Pablo Montoya).
His Formula One experience alone would be the envy of most drivers, as Gurney earned seven victories (including four at Grand Prix World Championship events) from 1959 to 1970. In the process, he also racked up some 18 podium finishes in Grand Prix racing, but perhaps his finest moment came at the 1967 Grand Prix of Belgium. Gurney won the race in an Eagle Gurney-Weslake V-12, becoming the only American to race and win in Formula One with a car of his own construction.
His open-wheel success extended to Indy Car racing as well. From 1962 to 1970, Gurney took seven wins in Indy Car competition, though he failed to win the sport’s ultimate race, the Indianapolis 500. Gurney finished in second place at the Indy 500 twice, in 1968 (losing to Bobby Unser in a Gurney-built Eagle) and in 1969 (losing to Mario Andretti). A Gurney-built Eagle would also see the Indianapolis 500 winners circle in 1973, driven by Gordon Johncock.
Ironically, stock car racing may be the best barometer of Gurney’s diversity as a driver. While others have struggled in the transition from open wheel cars to NASCAR Winston Cup (now Sprint Cup) racers, Gurney proved to be the driver to beat at California’s Riverside Raceway, winning races for Holman-Moody in 1963 and the Wood Brothers in 1964, 1965, 1966 and 1968. In 1967, Gurney drove at Riverside for Bill Stroppe and crew chief Bud Moore, but retired with mechanical trouble during the race.
The late 1960s marked the highlight of Gurney’s sports car racing career as well. In 1966, Gurney joined Ford’s efforts to develop and campaign the GT40, meant to beat Ferrari at its own game, in its own European backyard. Though Gurney put the #3 Shelby American GT40 Mk II on the pole for the 1966 24 hours of Le Mans, the victory would go to Shelby American drivers Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon, piloting the number 2 GT40 Mk II. The following year, Gurney partnered with driver A.J. Foyt to give the Shelby American-prepared Ford GT40 (this time a Mk IV) its second Le Mans victory.
As Gurney stood atop the podium in Le Mans in 1967, he was handed the traditional magnum bottle of champagne. Instead of taking a sip and passing the bottle, Gurney did the (then) unthinkable, putting his thumb over the open end, shaking the bottle and spraying the crowd in a display of joy and redemption (because few believed the ultra-competitive duo of Gurney and Foyt could survive, let alone win, the 24-hour race). Though the modern champagne shower was born, it produced unintended consequences; in the days before sponsors provided multiple fire-resistant driver suits, Gurney was forced to drive the rest of the season with a suit smelling of champagne, no matter how many times it was washed.
In 1970, Gurney retired as an active driver and turned his attention to All American Racers, which built and prepared race cars for sports car and open-wheel racing series. Over the years, AAR has racked up some 83 pole positions, 78 wins, and eight championships in events ranging from the Indy 500 to the 12 Hours of Sebring and the 24 Hours of Daytona.
Though Gurney enjoyed a squeaky-clean image throughout his career, Cannonball-Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash founder Brock Yates attempted to lure Gurney into participating in the debut outlaw event in 1971. Cognizant of the fact that the race could send a message of irresponsibility to his fans (not to mention its likelihood of tickets and potential for jail time), Gurney struggled with accepting Yates’s offer. It was Gurney’s father-in-law, who at the time was dying of cancer in a German hospital, who convinced him that the race was a “splendid idea.” Driving with Brock Yates in a Ferrari 365 GTB Daytona, the pair ran from the Red Ball Garage in New York City to the Portofino Inn in Redondo Beach, California, in just 35 hours and 54 minutes, beating the second place car (a Chevrolet Sportsvan packed with 55-gallon drums of gasoline to eliminate fuel stops) by some 53 minutes.
Over the years, Gurney has pioneered everything from race car aerodynamics (he’s credited with debuting the “Gurney Flap,” or wicker bill, in a car’s rear wing) to low center of gravity motorcycles (the Gurney Alligator). All American Racers continues its legacy of innovation to this day, serving as the constructor of the radical DeltaWing racer that ran at Le Mans in 2012 (and will be eligible for competition in next year’s United Sports Car Racing series, which merges Grand-Am with the American Le Mans Series).
Dan Gurney is largely out of the public eye these days, but his remarkable achievements live on through his legions of fans (of all ages). Though the “Dan Gurney for President” campaign never succeeded, we’d be hard-pressed to name another driver who has left as big a mark on American motorsports.