Dan Gurney's surname evolved into an adjective during his days
as auto racing's most versatile driver. First came Gurney luck,
a term used to refer to the freak mechanical breakdowns that
often sabotaged him during his early years behind the wheel.
Then came the Gurney grin, which was how people described the
smile he flashed after he began winning races of all types, from
Grand Prix to sports car to Indy.
Thanks to the youngest of Dan's six children, 22-year-old
Alexander, another Gurneyism may soon be hatched: Gurney worry.
Alexander inherited Dan's high-speed-driving gene and is
considering taking up racing now that he has graduated from
Colorado. Dan, whose credo as a driver from 1955 to '70 was "Go
as fast as you can without getting killed," isn't thrilled with
Alexander's career choice. "As a father I'd be happier if he
were excited about something else," says Dan, 66, who lives in
Newport Beach, Calif., with his wife, Evi. "I just hope he'll
learn about the dangers the easy way instead of the hard way."
Dan was also a father of invention. Using his influence as one
of auto racing's most respected drivers, he accelerated the
shift from front-engined to rear-engined cars at Indy by
persuading Ford and Lotus in 1961 to improve upon that
relatively successful but not yet popular configuration. In 1965
Jimmy Clark drove a Lotus-Ford to victory in the 500. Thus began
the rear-engine dominance of Indy that continues today. Gurney
then dedicated himself to the construction of an American car
fast enough to win a European Grand Prix, something no
U.S.-built machine had done since 1921. His efforts led to the
development of the Eagle, with a Weslake V-12 engine and a
chassis designed by Gurney and built by Len Terry. In '67 Gurney
drove one to victory in the Belgian Grand Prix, averaging
145.982 mph, then a Formula One record. Gurney never won the
Indy 500 as a driver--he was second in '68 and '69--but Eagles
won the race three times.
Since retiring from driving, Gurney has managed All American
Racers, a team that has successfully fielded cars in a variety
of racing classes. In '92 and '93 All American cars swept 17
straight International Motor Sports Association GTP races.
Gurney's team has struggled since switching last season
exclusively to the PPG CART World Series. "But these are growing
pains," says Gurney with the confidence of an old champion. "We
have a strong team, and we'll be fine."
COLOR PHOTO: ART SHAY [Cover of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED featuring Dan Gurney]