Last Wednesday afternoon All American Races CEO Justin Gurney hosted an 85th birthday party for his father, AAR Founder Dan Gurney and, continuing a tradition established last year, presented him with a restored Eagle racing car from a significant moment in his career.
Last year that car was Dan’s 1967 Indy 500 Eagle with a DOHC Ford V8 in the back, and this year his present was another ’67 Eagle Indycar, but this was the one, powered by a Gurney-Weslake-Ford pushrod V8, in which he won what he calls the greatest race of his career, the 1967 Rex Mays 300 at his home track of Riverside.
Briefly, amid a fiercely contested season finale duel for the USAC National Championship between Bobby Unser and Mario Andretti, Dan qualified his dark blue Eagle on pole position, alongside a yellow Vollstedt-Ford driven by none other than Jim Clark — the only time the Scot ever raced a single seater that was not a Lotus. That car, now owned by Washingtonians Marc Prentice and Michael McKinney, was also rolled out in Santa Ana last Wednesday to complete that Riverside front row from nearly half a century ago (above).
Behind them that day was one of the most accomplished fields of racing drivers ever assembled in America, filled with men whose careers would yield four World Championships, 47 F1 triumphs, 18 Indy 500 victories, 286 Indycar wins and 21 U.S. National Championships. In addition to Clark, Unser and Andretti, Gurney faced off that day against the likes of A.J. Foyt, John Surtees, Al Unser, George Follmer, Lloyd Ruby, Roger McCluskey, Johnny Rutherford, Joe Leonard and Gordon Johncock.
Dan prevailed that day by overcoming Clark after a brief early duel, then rebounding from a late puncture that left him more than 20 seconds behind with just a handful of laps remaining by mounting a furious charge back up to pass Bobby Unser for the win on the final lap. Justin retold the story at the party, illustrating it with blown up photographs showing Dan’s pit board as it counted down the laps and gave him the shrinking gap to the leader.
The senior Gurney was clearly moved by his son’s efforts and the adulation of the 100 or so luminaries and regular folks in attendance. Included among those celebrating Dan’s 85th with him and wife Evi were George Follmer, Bobby Rahal, Danny Sullivan, Dario Franchitti, Jim Busby, John Morton, Roman Slobodynsky, John Ward, Trevor Harris, Tom Kendall, Pete Brock, Chris Pook, Mark Miles, J.C. Agajanian Jr. and Linda Vaughn. Foremost among the onlookers were several of the AAR crew from that historic day, former team manager Bill Fowler, Butch Wilson, Terry Malone, Bruce Junor, Russ Newnes and Ed Marsh,
Cake and champagne were enjoyed by all…