The Petersen Automotive Museum honored motorsports legend Dan Gurney with its 2016 Robert E. Petersen Lifetime Achievement Award — in recognition of his work during six decades in racing as a driver, team owner and constructor — at its 22nd Annual Gala last Saturday. Gurney accepted the award via a video that was shown to the capacity crowd at the gala.
Gurney’s record shows serial success in a variety of different racing disciplines, his stature confirmed by his being the first driver to win in all of the major categories: Sports Cars, Formula One, Indycars, NASCAR, Can-Am and Trans-Am. In the spring of 1967 he enjoyed perhaps the most successful week of his racing life, teaming first with A.J. Foyt in a Ford MkIV to give Henry Ford II an all-American triumph at Le Mans, and the next weekend driving his Gurney-Weslake V12-powered F1 Eagle to victory in the Belgian Grand Prix, the only American — and only the second man — ever to win a World Championship Grand Prix in a car of his own manufacture. He also helped pioneer the full-face crash helmet, a crucial safety advance, by giving the Bell Star its debut outing in the 1968 Indy 500.
In partnership with Carroll Shelby and with the support of Goodyear, in 1965 Gurney founded All American Racers to construct Eagle racing cars that were some of the most innovative machines ever seen. Eagle Indycar drivers won 50 National Championship races, including three Indy 500s, and claimed two U.S. National Championships, while in IMSA sports car competition the works Eagle-Toyotas decimated the highly competitive GTP category with twin double championships and a record string of 17 consecutive race wins. Eagles also won the first two U.S. Formula 5000 championships in 1968 and 1969, and an Eagle Formula Ford claimed an SCCA National Championship at the club’s annual Runoffs in 1978. In pursuit of another passion, Gurney later turned his creativity toward designing an entirely new type of motorcycle and produced the Alligator, a unique machine incorporating improvements in both safety and performance.
“I feel lucky to have been able to enjoy such a long and fruitful career,” offered Gurney. “I’ve been privileged to take part in some of racing’s greatest moments and I am humbled to receive this award from the Petersen Museum. I knew Bob Petersen, and the spirit that he possessed and the work he did made a real difference in the automotive world. Thank you to the museum for this honor, and thank you to my wife, Evi, and my family for their support all these years.”
Previous winners of the Petersen Award include Art Chrisman, Carroll Shelby, George Barris, Andy Granatelli, The Ford Family, Vic Edelbrock, Jack Roush, Ed “Isky” Iskenderian, “Speedy” Bill Smith, Alex Xydias, Wally Parks and Ed Pink.