Steven B. Wilson
Follow us on Twitter @SpeedwayDigest
After a successful six-year relationship with Toyota, ThorSport Racing announces today that the two partners have agreed to part ways ahead of the 2018 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) season.
Wood Brothers Racing Enters Partnership with Archie St. Hilaire, Secures Charter for 2018 and Beyond15 Jan 2018
Wood Brothers Racing today announced a long-term partnership with Archie St. Hilaire, owner of Go FAS Racing. The agreement grants full operating control of one of the 36 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Charters to the Wood Brothers and its iconic No. 21 Ford.
The Charter guarantees a starting position in every Monster Energy Series race, providing further competitive stability for a team that returned to full-time competition for each of the past two seasons and earned a berth in the Monster Energy Series Playoffs in 2017.
“This Charter is a game-changing step for Wood Brothers Racing. It’s the critical piece needed to thrive as a top owner in our sport,” said Len Wood, co-owner of Wood Brothers Racing. “We have been fortunate enough to have extremely fast cars and are blessed with the best sponsors in NASCAR. Pair that with our support from Ford and nearly every piece is in place. Last year we leased a Charter from Archie [St. Hilaire]. We’ve really come to appreciate working with him and his son Mason and I think everyone has benefited tremendously from this relationship. For 2018 and beyond, we’ve taken it a step further and entered into a partnership and we think it will be a rewarding endeavor for everyone involved.”
Last season, with driver Ryan Blaney, the Wood Brothers enjoyed one of its most successful seasons in decades, capturing the organization’s 99th premier series win and finishing in the top 10 in points for the first time since 1994. Blaney advanced to the Round of 8 in the Monster Energy Series Playoffs and went on to finish 9th in the points standings.
In 2018, the team looks to build on last season’s playoff run, with Paul Menard taking the reins of the iconic No. 21 Ford. When asked about his thoughts on Paul and the upcoming season, co-owner Eddie Wood has an optimistic outlook on the upcoming season. “Paul has the skill and playoff experience to take the Wood Brothers on yet another championship run,” Wood said. “The security that the Charter brings through this partnership will allow us to place of our focus on winning races, making the playoffs and fighting for a championship. We’re looking forward to getting back to racing and competing against the best teams and drivers in the world.”
The Monster Energy Series returns with the 60th running of the Daytona 500, a race the Wood Brothers have won five times with five different drivers. NASCAR Hall of Famer and Wood Brothers team founder Glen Wood competed in the first Daytona 500 in 1959.
Team Penske has announced a new partnership with Florida-based DEX Imaging, the nation’s largest independent dealer of document imaging equipment.
DEX Imaging will be featured as a primary sponsor for three 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) races this season on Team Penske’s No. 12 Ford Fusion driven by Ryan Blaney, including events at Atlanta Motor Speedway in February, Richmond Raceway in April and Kentucky Speedway in July. The Florida-based company will also serve as a full-season associate sponsor on the No. 12 MENCS Ford Fusion in 2018.
In addition to the NASCAR partnership with Team Penske, DEX will be an associate sponsor on the No. 6 and No. 7 Acura Team Penske DPi entries competing in two important IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship endurance races – the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona in January and the 12 Hours of Sebring in March.
“It is always exciting to bring new partners to Team Penske and we look forward to continuing the growth of the DEX Imaging brand though motorsports and our race teams,” said Roger Penske. “DEX is a leader in its field and we believe the company can help create some unique opportunities for our teams and our other partners as well. With Ryan Blaney preparing for his first Cup Series season with our team, there is also great growth potential with DEX for the future.”
DEX plans maximize the new partnership by hosting its customers at the race track and creating unique experiences with potential clients at the events where the company is featured as the primary sponsor of the No. 12 Ford. In addition, DEX plans to work closely with Team Penske on a significant business-to-business program with other team partners and among the Penske Corporation companies.
Blaney enters his first full-time MENCS season with Team Penske in 2018 fresh off a winning season driving for Wood Brothers Racing. The High Point, N.C., native scored his first career Cup Series win at Pocono Raceway in 2017 and earned a spot in the NASCAR Playoffs, as he finished ninth in the final championship standings.
“It’s great to see new partners step up and become a part of the No. 12 team for this season and beyond,” said Blaney, who turned 24 in December. “I’m excited to race the DEX Imaging Ford for the first time in just a few weeks.”
The 2018 MENCS regular season begins with the 60th anniversary running of the Great American Race, the Daytona 500, on Sunday, February 18. DEX’s first race as a primary sponsor with Team Penske will be the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday, February 25.
Team Penske PR
Dan Gurney, one of America's true auto racing heroes, passed away Sunday, Jan. 14 in Southern California following complications with pneumonia. He was 86.
A tall, handsome, larger-than-life American who raced in Europe during the late 1950s and 1960s at a time when the American public was generally not following European racing anywhere close to the extent it later would, Gurney enjoyed considerable success overseas, including winning four Formula One World Championship Grand Prix events and sharing the winning car in the 1967 Le Mans 24 Hours with A.J. Foyt, plus the 1960 Nurburgring 1000-kilometers with Stirling Moss.
But he also won at home, claiming seven United States Auto Club-sanctioned National Championship events in the late 1960s; five out of the six grueling 500-mile NASCAR stock races held over the Riverside, California, road course between 1963 and 1968; numerous events in the SCCA Can-Am and Trans-Am series; and even the first professional road racing series ever conducted in the United States, the inaugural USAC Road Racing championship in 1958.
Gurney drove in nine consecutive Indianapolis 500-Mile Races between 1962 and 1970 - finishing second, second and third in the final three - and was the winning manufacturer three times. Bobby Unser drove Eagle chassis constructed by his All-American Racers company in Santa Ana, California, to victory twice (for Leader Cards, Inc., in 1968 and for Gurney's team in 1975), and Gordon Johncock won in an Eagle for the Patrick Racing Team in 1973.
Of all of Gurney's numerous accomplishments, undoubtedly the most renowned took place during an incredible eight-day period in 1967. On the weekend of June 10 and 11, he shared the winning Ford GT40 Mk IV with Foyt in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. On the very next Sunday, Gurney won the Belgian Grand Prix over the blindingly fast Spa-Francorchamps circuit, driving a Gurney Weslake-powered All-American Racers Eagle for which he was manufacturer and team principal.
This remains the only occasion when an American driver won a points-paying Formula One World Championship Grand Prix at the wheel of an American car. Jimmy Murphy's victory with a Duesenberg in the 1921 French Grand Prix took place almost 30 years before there was a World Championship for drivers.
After finishing second in the German Grand Prix, third at Portugal and fourth in the Italian Grand Prix for Ferrari in 1959 in front-engine cars, Gurney moved to BRM for a season and then to Porsche where he won the 1962 French Grand Prix at Rouen. He also won both the French Grand Prix and Mexican Grand Prix for Jack Brabham's team in 1964.
By this time, Gurney already unintentionally had played a major role in changing the face of racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Despite being an enthusiastic spectator at East Coast midget car racing events during his teen years, Gurney had never visited IMS before he went there as an entered driver in 1962. He was scheduled to drive a rear-engine turbine for John Zink but ultimately qualified a rear-engine Buick-powered car for Mickey Thompson after taking his "rookie" test, incidentally, in one of Zink's Offenhauser-powered front-engine "roadsters," a historical footnote about which Gurney was extremely proud.
Driving in the "500" while also competing on the Grand Prix circuit in those days required quite a bit of trans-Atlantic travel during May. After qualifying for the 1962 "500," but well before the race itself, Gurney flew to Zandvoort for the Dutch Grand Prix on May 20.
He had plenty to think about on the flight.
Although rear-engine cars had been entered for the "500" between 1937 and 1951, they had enjoyed virtually no success. But after then two-time defending World Champion Brabham came to Indy the year before, 1961, and drove an underpowered rear-engine Grand Prix Cooper-Climax to ninth, Gurney became yet another person who began to contemplate the potential of the lightweight rear-engine cars that were dominating Grand Prix racing.
After arriving in Holland, Gurney began trying to convince Colin Chapman of Lotus that he should go to Indianapolis and at least have a look. Chapman rather reluctantly agreed, but only after Gurney offered to pay his passage. Once at the Speedway, Chapman also began to see the potential, and his enthusiasm increased when Gurney confided in him that Ford Motor Company - after an absence of several decades - was considering an Indianapolis 500 entry and sought a team with which to partner.
A marriage was soon made, and a team of three production-based V8 Ford-powered Lotus cars were entered in the 1963 Indianapolis 500 to be driven by Chapman's top driver, Jim Clark, and by Gurney, who, in those days of much more sporting interchange and driver freedom, was on loan from Brabham.
Clark went on to finish second in the "500." Gurney, down on power and making a second stop while Clark only made one, salvaged seventh.
Racing at IMS was about to change forever, and days of the front-engine cars were all but over.
Technology began to increase by leaps and bounds, and Gurney was right there and heavily involved with much of it, including what was probably the greatest quantum leap in the history of the track from a technological advancement standpoint.
Rear wings were not permitted until 1972, the rule up though 1971 being that "any aerodynamic device had to be an integral part of the body." But after Team McLaren found a way around that rule in 1971 and snuck a wing into its so-called engine cover, the barn door was about to burst wide open.
The official one-lap qualifying record going into qualifying in 1971 was 171.953 mph by Joe Leonard, in 1968. By the time qualifying was over in May 1971, Peter Revson had raised it, with one of the new McLarens, to 179.354 mph.
For 1972, "bolt-on" rear wings were now permitted. By the time qualifying was over this time, Bobby Unser, driving a Roman Slobodynskj-designed 1972 Dan Gurney Eagle, had turned a single lap at an unbelievable 196.678 mph.
These were extraordinary times.
There are so many wonderful stories involving Gurney, who incidentally, on race morning 1968, wore the first full-face helmet ever seen at the Speedway.
He had many endearing personal traits, such as his boyish grin and an impish sense of humor. And perhaps the most endearing of all: Even into the later years, whenever he was paid a compliment, especially by a member of the distaff side, he would break into that wonderful grin and then he would blush.
He was very much an unabashed "stand-on-the-gas" type as a driver, who dropped out of many races while in commanding positions. But Gurney once confided that some of his favorite races had been ones he hadn't finished, chuckling that he would far rather blow up while leading a race than be restricted to a strategic and disciplined pace to try and win.
He could also be what the Brits used to refer to as "a bit of lad."
There was the time, while he was chauffeuring a rental car, that the subject of the intricate moonshiner's "180-on-a-bridge" escape maneuver came up in conversation, and one of Gurney's passengers explained how it was achieved. The word is that, with another huge grin on his face, the "All-American Boy," in complete deference to his public image, tried it himself several times until he had it perfected.
But there were the serious times, as well. Perhaps the most poignant Gurney anecdote of all of them took place at the funeral of Clark in April 1968.
Gurney attended the service, along with virtually the entire Grand Prix brigade, but with the angular Gurney standing head and shoulders above his colleagues.
At one point, a gentleman came over and asked Gurney if he could spend a few private moments with him away from the others.
The gentleman identified himself as Clark's father. He went on to explain that the family had seen very little of Jimmy in recent months, after the crippling British tax laws had forced him into following in the footsteps of so many others in the sports world and in show business by moving to the continent, and typically to the south of France.
"But when we did spend time with him," Mr. Clark continued, "and Jimmy started discussing the other drivers with us, I wanted you to know that he told us on more than one occasion that the one he said he "feared" the most as a competitor was you."
The report is that Gurney began to weep, and indeed, decades later, tears would typically come to his eyes whenever this was mentioned.
There could have been no greater compliment.
School will be in session, sort of, at the Pioneer Pole Buildings Motorsports 2018 Race Car and Trade Show taking place at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks, PA January 19-21.
In addition to the show, filling 250,000 square feet of show space with just about everything imaginable in motorsports, opportunities to learn are being offered. For just the price of an admission ticket to the show attendees will be able to attend seminars on the basics of racing, legal issues, Micro Sprint racing with Mike Dicely of Hyper Racing, Dirt Late Model Set-Ups with the Bernheisels, Basics of Sponsorship with John Snyder, Safety at the track with Warren Alston and more. Some highly respected people in the industry to be part of the long list of seminars.
Wingless open cock-pit racing has been growing in popularity in recent years. Levi Jones, a seven-time USAC national champion and current top runner Chad Boespflug will help guide local winged racers into the world of wingless Sprint Car racing at a Saturday seminar. They will talk about the changes needed for what will be a new journey for many planning to race the new regional USAC wingless 360 Sprint Car series this year as well as the annual Eastern Storm events for the National USAC Sprint division.
More than 250 racing vehicles and booth displays will be in place for the three day show with three time NASCAR Cup Series Champion Tony Stewart topping the list of participants. In addition former NASCAR Cup winning crew chief and FOX TV personality Larry MacReynolds will be there along with 20-time World of Outlaws Sprint Champion Steve Kinser and rising Sprint Car standout David Gravel along with a long list of local and regional racers.
A long list of speedways and sanctioning organizations will be offering information on their 2018 season plans.
The Pine Brook Speedway Reunion will be a big part of the show featuring cars and drivers from that era.
Show attendees will have many, many opportunities to meet racers and collect autographs, take photos and get up close with the many racing vehicles on display during the three days.
The show opens on Friday, January 19 at 2 p.m. and closes at 9. Doors open on Saturday and Sunday at 11 a.m. The box office and D-Hall exhibit area open one hour earlier each day. Free parking is available.
MOTORSPORTS 2018 SEMINARS
Friday, January 19: (Show Hours 2 to 9 p.m.)
5:00 - 6:00 PM: (Room 1) The Basics of Racing - Set-up, tire and general maintenance on Street/Pure/Factory Stock and Front Wheel-Drive (asphalt and dirt) “U-car” divisions. Presented by Roy Anderson of Anderson Race Cars.
6:30 -7:15 PM: (Room 2) Legal Issues in Racing, and with the Racing Business - Presented by attorney Meri Van Blarcom-Gupko of Wiley, Malehorn, Sirota and Raynes legal firm. A practicing lawyer with an auto racing background, she will answer racing-related legal questions that you may have, such as sponsor liability, insurance and what responsibilities you need to be aware of as a racer and/or track operator. Open to racers and promoters/track managers. (Note: Legal questions will be answered at no charge during the presentation).
Saturday, January 20: (Show Hours 11 Am To 9 P.M.)
11:30AM - 12:00PM: (Room 2): NEW DIVISION! The Pennsylvania 600 Restricted Micro Sprint class will make its debut in the area in 2018. Wayne Lesher and Mike Dicely will share their vision for the division from young racers ages 10-16 years old.
1:00 - 3:00 PM: (Room 2): INTRODUCTION TO 600cc SPRINT RACING AND 600cc SPRINT CHASSIS SETUP - An introduction to 600cc Sprint racing and 600cc Sprint chassis setups presented by Mike Dicely of Hyper Racing. The first 15 minutes will be dedicated to offer the basic information needed for a race team considering a move to 600cc Sprints. This is ideal for the beginner, someone moving from Quarter-Midgets or anyone interested in the sport. The next 45 minutes will be dedicated to an introduction to 600cc Sprint chassis setups. There will be a Q & A after.
1:15 - 2:15 PM: (Room 1) - Dirt Late Model Set-ups and Chassis Tuning - presented by Jim Bernheisel, and sons Brandon and Bryan, of Bernheisel Race Components/ Lazer Chassis. The Bernheisel family, one of the sport's experts in dirt Late Model chassis building and driving.
2:30 - 3:30 PM: (Room 1): BRIDGEPORT CRATE SPORTSMAN MEETING - Bridgeport Speedway will be allowing only 602 crate engines in their Sportsman division in 2018. At the meeting Pace Performance, KillerCrate, Bridgeport tech, and Bridgeport’s service centers will be present for comments and questions. All 602 Crate- Sportsman drivers who intend on competing at Bridgeport are encouraged to attend.
3:15 - 4:15 PM: (Room 2): The Basics of Race Team Sponsorship - Presented by race team Media Relations consultant and motorsports journalist John Snyder. The basics you need from writing proposals and who do send them to is covered from an expert who has had winning success for decades with several drivers including Brett Hearn.
3:45 - 4:45 PM: (Room 1) INTRODUCTION TO WINGLESS SPRINT CAR RACING - Levi Jones, one of the most decorated drivers in the history of the United States Auto Club (USAC) and current top series racer Chad Boespflug, will help guide local winged racers into the world of wingless Sprint Car racing. They will talk about the changes needed to your race car, help in set-up as well as what you need to be prepared for in what will be a new journey for many in the northeast with the new regional USAC wingless 360 Sprint Car group starting this year as well as the annual Eastern Storm events for the National USAC Sprint division.
5:00 - 6:00 PM: (Room 1) SAFETY AT THE SPEEDWAY - Presented by Warren Alston, a veteran racing flagger and official; and by profession an Emergency Medical Services Chief and Occupational Health Technician. The first part of the seminar will cover what safety measures are, or should be, in place at local racetracks. Topics will include Safety Terms, Kinematics of Trauma, Scene Survey in an accident, Rapid Assessment (RPM) and Treatment Priorities. It will be followed by an actual demonstration, with a race car, of the “team approach” to remove an injured driver. A “must attend” for racetrack first responders, but also open to fans and track management/officials.
4:30 - 5:30 PM: (Room 2) WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT RACING SHOCKS - Presented by Mike Walton and Bruce Harwood of Fox Shocks. Hear from the experts how you can tune your race car with shocks, what effect gas PSI has, linear vs. digressive valving, shock maintenance and how to read a dyno sheet. This informative seminar will conclude with a question and answer session.
5:45- 6:35 PM: (Room 2): Taking Photos at the Track - For the “amateur” or the person looking to enter the business, this seminar provides “the basics” of racing photography. One attendee will get a chance to take photos at the Ms. Motorsports competition, with the professionals! Hosted by award winning racing photographer Bob Yurko of Area Auto Racing News
6:15 - 7:15 PM: (Room 1): SPRINT CAR HELP - Greg Hodnett’s winning crew chief Ryan “Roach” Hand will share his knowledge of preparing a Sprint Car for dirt track competition from the work in the shop to pre-race jobs at the speedway. Hand will be open to answer questions from attendees as well.
Sunday, January 21: (Show Hours 11 Am To 4 P.M.)
Noon - 1:30 PM: (Room 1) - USAC Quarter-Midgets Regional Meeting - With the addition of several new quarter-midget clubs in the area, USAC will be conducting a meeting with new and old members to outline the exciting season ahead for the .25 Midgets both locally and nationally.
Versatile Jimmy Blewett, whose racing resume of 125 career feature wins includes victories on both asphalt and dirt, is ready to race in the NAPA Know How Weekend inside Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall over the January 26th and 27th weekend.
“I didn’t have my own car ready for the Allentown race and spent the weekend helping my friend Ryan Flores with his car,” Blewett, who races out of Howell, N.J., said. “Now, the red, white and blue No. 76 is ready to win.”
Blewett’s talent as Flores’ setup man in Allentown was evident when Flores moved to the front of the field in both races. A slow tire leak and a cracked oil filter took Flores out of the lead late in each of the two races.
Blewett and well over 70 other Three Quarter (TQ) Midget drivers will be seeking victory in the prestigious Gambler’s Classic, a race first run by Len Sammons Motorsports Productions in 2003.
Only eight men have won the Gambler’s Classic. Anthony Sesely and Erick Rudolph have dominated the recent event history, each winning three of the last six Classics.
Two time past winners are Joey Payne, Lou Cicconi, Jr., and the late Ted Christopher. Andy Mackereth, Jeff Heotzler and Mike Tidaback are the three single Classic winners.
Blewett won ten times in three different classes of race car this past season at Wall (NJ) Stadium en route to winning the Modified championship, his first at the speedway in 15 years.
The fiery speedstar, whose nickname is ‘Showtime’, will go to post in Atlantic City aboard a Lafler chassis TQ Midget with a Dave Orange-prepared engine.
Blewett’s quest for victory in an Indoor Auto Racing Series Fueled By VP Racing Fuels race has been a five year chase. Despite several Series second and third place finishes, Blewett remains winless.
That’s a situation that could very well change, particularly in light of the fact that at the 2018 Indoor Auto Racing Series opener over January 5th and 6th, Justin Bonsignore, of Holtsville, N.Y., and Scott Kreutter, of Buffalo, N.Y., two drivers who had been trying for their first wins as long as Blewett has, each won for the first time.
Both Bonsignore and Kreutter are expected to provide Blewett with plenty of competition, as will Erick Rudolph, Ransomville, N.Y., an eight time Series past winner who didn’t score at Allentown but finished second and third in the pair of feature events.
The quest for victory in the prestigious NAPA Know How weekend will begin on Friday, January 26th, with TQ Midgets racing in four 20 lap events to determine the front end of the starting lineup for Saturday’s Gambler’s Classic.
The unpredictible Slingshots and agile Champ Karts will also run Friday night events that will also help set their line-ups for Saturday races.
NAPA Know How Weekend moves into high gear on Saturday, January 27th with the running of a full slate of qualifying races and the 16th annual Gambler’s Classic TQ Midget 40-lap main event. Champ Karts and Slingshots will also run 25-lap features on Saturday.
On Friday, January 26th doors will open for spectators at 6:00 PM with racing starting at 7:30.
The Saturday schedule calls for doors to open at 5:00 PM with racing starting at 7:00 PM.
The early opening of the Boardwalk Hall doors Saturday is to allow fans extra time to visit ‘Fan Fest’, a fun and exciting time for fans of all ages to meet the drivers and car owners, have their souvenir programs and event shirts autographed and have pictures taken with their favorites before the racing starts.
For tickets, contact Ticketmaster, the Boardwalk Hall Box Office, or the Area Auto Racing News office at 609-888-3618.
The finale Series will be a first annual event in New York State, on Friday and Saturday night February 9th and 10th in the Times Union Center in downtown Albany, N.Y. For choice tickets, contact the Times Union Center Box Office, charge-by-phone at (800) 745-3000, or visit online at ticketmaster.com.
Team Penske and Hitachi Group today announced an extension of their partnership for the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season.
After a productive five-year relationship working with three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves of Team Penske, the familiar Hitachi branding will transition to the No. 1 Dallara/Chevrolet of reigning INDYCAR champion Josef Newgarden for eight races in the 2018 season.
Additionally, Hitachi will continue as an associate sponsor on Team Penske’s other Verizon IndyCar Series entries – the Dallara/Chevrolets driven by Simon Pagenaud, the 2016 series champion and Will Power, the 2014 title winner, along with a return to Castroneves’ No. 3 car for the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500.
“Our partnership with Hitachi continues to deliver for both organizations across a wide variety of business platforms,” said Roger Penske. “Hitachi is deeply involved in our on-track performance as they continue to collaborate with Chevrolet on its winning INDYCAR engine program. Away from the race track, our relationship continues to reach new heights with shared success through various automotive and technology projects, along with joint marketing and promotional initiatives. We are excited to build on this success in 2018.”
Hitachi and Team Penske began their partnership in 2012 and it has evolved into one of the successful pairings in the INDYCAR paddock. The industry leaders have aligned for race wins, podium finishes and pole positions and the future is bright with Newgarden, one of the fastest rising stars in motorsports.
“Over the course of my first season with Team Penske, I was able to witness this great partnership firsthand,” said Newgarden, who earned four wins, one pole and nine podium finishes en route to his first series championship in 2017. “I look forward to working with all of the Hitachi employees and partners as we try and build on the tremendous framework of success already in place.”
The activation strategy around the Hitachi Team Penske partnership includes event marketing and execution at key automotive events and industry shows across the globe, to go along with unique at-track experiences and creative social media integration with Hitachi and its partners.
“The sponsorship with Team Penske continues to provide the Hitachi Group with a tremendous opportunity to leverage the success of a great IndyCar racing team, as well as to partner with a global leader in transportation and logistics - Penske Corporation,” said Toshiaki Higashihara, President & CEO, Hitachi, Ltd. “Since 2012, Hitachi has been able to leverage its technology and applications experience, along with data analytics expertise to help Penske build a successful racing team and also optimize other aspects of their business.” “Partnering with Penske puts Hitachi in a strong position to continue to build our global brand around Hitachi’s Social Innovation Business,” he continued.
“We are very excited to continue our partnership with Team Penske in 2018,” said Hideaki Seki, President & CEO for Hitachi Automotive Systems Ltd., . “Finishing in four of the top five positions in the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series final standings and earning a 15th series championship illustrates Team Penske’s commitment to excellence. Hitachi shares the same drive and determination to be the best.”
The 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season begins on the Streets of St. Petersburg in Florida on Sunday, March 11.
Team Penske PR
Motorsports has been littered with men and women who possessed the talent to drive any kind of vehicle, but there are very few who have been able to do it consistently and win.
Dan Gurney was one of those who did.
It didn’t matter if he was driving the wheels off a bulky stock car at Riverside for the Wood Brothers of NASCAR fame or a sleek Ford GT40 Mark IV sports car developed by Carroll Shelby at Le Mans, Gurney knew what it took to go fast and end up in Victory Lane.
Trying to properly explain the impact Gurney, who passed away yesterday at the age of 86, had on motorsports is difficult because his accomplishments across all forms is so great.
He played an instrumental role in creating one of the most iconic moments in Ford Motor Company’s racing history and in the wake of that started a tradition which continues to this day when he and A.J. Foyt became part of the first, and to this day the only, all-American team to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1967.
The visual of Gurney hopping on the hood after Foyt crossed the finish line to give Ford its second straight victory in the iconic endurance race was only surpassed by the precedent of becoming the first person to spray champagne on the winner’s podium.
All of that came about as Gurney, who became the first driver to win at least one race in Formula One, NASCAR, Indy Car and Sports Cars, was hop-scotching around the globe competing in various forms of racing.
He gained his first Formula One victory in the Grand Prix of France in 1962 and the following year began a streak of four straight wins in the yearly NASCAR road course race at Riverside, driving for Holman-Moody (1963) and the Wood Brothers (1964-66). In 1967, he captured his first IndyCar event at the Riverside, Calif., road course before winning his fifth and final NASCAR event at the same place in 1968.
“Dan was one of the best road racers I’ve ever seen,” said Leonard Wood, a NASCAR Hall of Famer who worked with Gurney during those winning years. “If I was sitting up in the stands by the esses at Riverside and you put 10 different drivers in the car, I could tell you which one was Dan. He would always take the right approach to the turn, and I can’t say enough about how good he was. We had so much fun with him. If you got the car equal to anybody else, you were just home free.
“Everybody told him he looked like he was on a Sunday evening drive out there,” continued Wood. “But he said, ‘You don’t know how hard it is to make it look like that. You’ve got to discipline yourself to back off at the right places.’”
Through the years he became associated with Ford through many different high-profile programs.
He served as the first test driver of the Mustang I concept car and made the initial laps with the prototype at the United States Grand Prix at Watkins Glen International in 1962.
Shortly thereafter, he became the last person to drive 999, which was the second race car built by Ford Motor Company Founder Henry Ford in 1902. Gurney took the car, which was raced competitively by Barney Oldfield in the early 1900s, around the Ford Dearborn test track in 1963 for a few laps before it was retired for good.
And Gurney was also responsible for bringing Colin Chapman and Jim Clark to Ford to help produce the first rear engine IndyCar that led to the manufacturer’s first Indianapolis 500 victory in 1965.
But Gurney’s expertise in racing didn’t just pertain to the driver’s seat, he was an innovator who designed and built cars as well. He is the only American to win a Formula One race in a car he built by himself (1967 Belgian Grand Prix) and was instrumental in designing the closed-faced helmet. In addition, he invented what became known as the Gurney flap, which is a small piece of metal that is attached to the rear wing of a car, increasing downforce.
In recognition of those achievements and others, Gurney was presented with the prestigious Edison-Ford Medal for Innovation by The Henry Ford in Dearborn, Mich., on Oct. 29, 2014.
That is just one of the many honors Gurney received during his lifetime. He is a member of just about every motorsports hall of fame in the world, and was presented the Spirit of Ford Award in 1999, which is the highest racing honor the company can bestow.
"Dan Gurney epitomized the best of American auto racing,” said Edsel B. Ford II, a member of Ford Motor Company’s board of directors and a close friend of Gurney. “All of us involved in the Ford racing program mourn the loss of this great legend. Dan was a renowned driver and team owner. He was also a celebrated innovator who received the Thomas Edison-Henry Ford Medal for Innovation from the Trustees of The Henry Ford.
“We will always remember his 1967 Le Mans win in the Ford Mark IV, his early testing of the Mustang I prototype, the Ford NASCAR wins with teams like the Wood Brothers and his vision for a Ford Indy car program that brought Colin Chapman and Jim Clark together.
"Dan represented himself and his country with class and dignity in racing events around the world. More importantly, we'll remember that infectious smile, that twinkle in his eye when he told a great story and the love he had for Evi and his sons, Justin, Alex, Dan Jr., Jimmy and Danny. We didn't just lose a motorsport icon, we lost a friend. There may never be another one like him."
Bill Ford, Executive Chairman, Ford Motor Company, echoed that sentiment. “We are deeply saddened about the passing of Dan Gurney,” he said. “His legacy as a racer and innovator may be unmatched in the history of the sport. We are honored that so much of that legacy, including the All American Le Mans victory in 1967, came with Ford. He was a great friend to Ford and respected around the world. We offer our condolences to his wife, Evi, and his family.”
Ford Performance PR