Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

He Led the Way at Daytona

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

He Led the Way at Daytona

Article excerpt

Byline: Don Coble


Dan Gurney

Inagural Rolex 24 winner

The first time Dan Gurney drove inside Daytona International Speedway 50 years ago, he was amazed by the enormity of the facility. With so many successes since, the 80-year-old legend still ranks his win in the Daytona Continental sports car race as one of his best memories.

Although he was a factory driver for Porsche, he drove at 2.7-liter Coventry Climax-powered Lotus 19 to Victory Lane. He was allowed to switch manufacturers because Porsche was considered to be too slow for Daytona.

That three-hour race evolved in 1966 into what's now known as the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. While most of the previous race winners will return to the Daytona International Speedway for the 50th running of the premier sports car endurance race, recent knee replacement surgery will keep Gurney home in Southern California.

His attention, however, will be focused squarely at Daytona.

Gurney talked with the Florida Times-Union's Don Coble about that first victory, and how that helped him launch one of the most-successful racing careers in American motorsports history. Excerpts from that interview:

Most former winners will be at the race Saturday and Sunday. Will you be there?

No, I'm not going to make it because of the surgery. I'm not traveling that well yet. I'm sitting home and sulking and complaining. I always love to be at Daytona, but I'm not ready to be a traveler.

What do you remember most about winning the first sports car race at Daytona in 1962?

First, I'm mighty pleased with that. I was super impressed by the speedway the first time I saw it. It took my breath away. Nobody knew how to forecast what it was going to be. There was an air of uncertainty of it. The size of it was imposing. It was memorable. The first race was the Daytona three-hour Continental for sports cars, which gradually became the 24-hour race. It was tough back then, and it only got tougher when they made it a 24-hour race.

Did that race make you fall in love with the track?

Yes. I did run in the Grand Nationals (now known as Sprint Cup) with Holman Moody. …

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