Dan Gurney, the first driver with victories in each of the Formula One, IndyCar and NASCAR Cup series, died Sunday from complications of pneumonia. He was 86.
His wife, Evi, announced his death in a statement distributed by All American Racers, Inc.
“With one last smile on his handsome face, Dan drove off into the unknown just before noon today,” said the statement signed by Evi Gurney, the Gurney family and AAR teammates.
“In deepest sorrow, with gratitude in our hearts for the love and joy you have given us during your time on this earth, we say, ‘Godspeed.”
Gurney began racing in 1955 and won in nearly every racing series he attempted. He drove for Ferrari, BRM, Porsche and Brabham in Formula One, then formed his own team. He won the Belgian Grand Prix in 1967 in his own car, the first and only time an American won an F1 race in a car of his own design.
Gurney teamed with AJ Foyt that year to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans in a Ford GT40, and he’s often credited with starting the tradition of spraying the champagne from the podium at that race.
Gurney retired from driving in 1970 with 51 victories.
“When we talk about legendary American drivers, owners and car constructors on an international stage, Dan Gurney is one of the all-time greats,” Indianapolis Motor Speedway President J. Douglas Boles said in a statement. “His skill in all three areas helped him make an indelible mark and serve as a huge influence in this sport. Dan was a giant in the racing world, in every sense.”
Mario Andretti and Juan Pablo Montoya are the only others drivers to win in each of the IndyCar, Formula One and NASCAR Cup series. Andretti hailed Gurney in a post on Twitter.
“I was first inspired by him when I was in midgets dreaming of being like him. I was last inspired by him yesterday. Yes, I mean forever,” Andretti wrote. “He understood me better than anyone else, which is why he wrote the foreword for my book in 2001.”
Funeral arrangements are to be private but the family asked that donations be made to the Hoag Hospital Foundation in Newport Beach in lieu of flowers.