“In the final analysis of course, large crowds of paying spectators are the keys to success for all. Track owners and a sanctioning body who aggressively promote these big events — which by contract will feature the teams and driving stars, will get the crowds … which in turn excites the sponsors and TV networks and the crowd, etc., thereby upgrading the entire sport business. It is my firm belief that rather than cutting the cost of racing which in itself is nearly impossible, it is far more important to make money more readily available by increasing the popularity and prestige of the sport with the general public.”
-- Dan Gurney’s “White Paper,” 1978
Of everything Dan Gurney contributed to motorsports in his 86 years, this paragraph was perhaps his most significant contribution.
That’s saying something. It would take volumes (and many have tried) to put into words what Gurney’s accomplishments as a driver, owner and inventor meant to motorsports. Yet a few words – more specifically, what those words accomplished – were as powerful as the following:
That doesn’t even begin to list the remarkable accomplishments of one of the greatest we’ve ever seen. But the “White Paper” is his legacy, and his argument in writing it was correct; racing needs streamlined control from its sanctioning body and more input and influence from team owners. The argument led to the creation of CART. Say what you will about what has transpired in the four decades since, but his notion was correct and necessary.
Dan Gurney saw and understood all aspects of motor racing, from technology to invention to marketing to ownership to driving. He didn’t just understand it all, he was exceptional at it all. Fans of the sport are blessed that many of its greatest talents continue to contribute and be involved years and decades after their driving careers end.
We witnessed one of the greatest. Or, as Mario put it best when Gurney passed away last week:
“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.”
RIP Dan Gurney. 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. He understood me better than anyone else, which is why he wrote the foreword for my book in 2001 #DanGurneyHasFinishedTheRace pic.twitter.com/twMkM2Mn0U