A letter to Dan Gurney
DDear Dan, Over the years, you were kind enough to write a few letters. As a letter writer myself, I’d always intended to write back to you, but somehow I didn’t feel as though I should, or maybe that I wasn’t important enough. Getting to know you a little better over the years should have shown me that it would have been fine, even welcome. You were always a model of civility, graciousness, respect, and humor.
One of the best examples of this was when you invited Kevin Cameron and me to come talk about the moment-canceling twin you and Chuck Palmgren were building, and it felt like an actual conversation. You and your team asked us what we thought, and genuinely seemed to want to know.
So it was my mistake not to write back. I wanted to share with you two things from the time I knew you that really made an impression.
When we went to lunch back in 2002 while CW was testing the Alligator, I stopped by All American Racers to take a walk down that famous hallway of photos. At the restaurant, conversation turned to some two-stroke engine development, and I asked one of your guys about what he was working on. He and I went back and forth about combustion-chamber shapes based on some experimental stuff I’d seen, and I remarked to him, “Man, it must be a lot of fun working on this kind of stuff!” Without a pause, you turned, and with a searing focus in your eyes said, “It would be a lot more fun if we were hitting our targets.” And in that moment, I thought maybe I saw a tiny piece of the drive and competitiveness that must have informed your entire life. I was also completely ready to go back to the shop and try to help hit those targets.
The other thing was that even in the face of all your accomplishments in car racing, you told me about how your love of motorcycling started early, and you shared this: “When I was 15, I came really close to getting permission from my folks to buy a Royal Enfield 350cc single, but I didn’t get to. I’ve been getting even with them ever since!” I knew we were the same in this small way.
You were the perfect example of how great humans are always human first. For so many of us, you were the noble America we all envisioned ourselves as being. I wish I’d written sooner. Thank you for improving our world.