Monday, April 22, 2013

Last week, the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation had a great outpouring of support from the auto-racing community. Racing legends Mario Andretti and Dan Gurney both have committed to help fund a JMMF scholarship in the name of auto racing. Rockingham Dragway also is on board.
The goal is to fund a single scholarship this year for the sport of auto racing and they're off to a great start. We're counting down to $5,000 . . . only $3,500 left to go on this one.
Now this isn't an idea we are exclusively giving to auto racing. Baseball, football, golf, hockey, curling . . . if they're interested, we’re interested.
Anyone who is able to raise the amount of a single scholarship ($5,000) will have their sport identified with that scholarship and it's winner.
If you'd like to start a campaign for a specific sport, let us know by emailing
Now here are two classic Jim Murray columns on Mario Andretti and Dan Gurney.

April 12, 1988, SPORTS


He May Look Soft, but He Drives Hard

   The thing about Dan Gurney is, he never looked like a race driver. Until he got in the car.
   He had these collar-ad good looks, a dimpled smile, all his teeth and hair. If you knew he was a sportsman, you might guess tennis.
   You wouldn't be at all surprised to learn that he was born on Long Island and that Dad was with the Metropolitan Opera and Mom was involved in Junior League charities. If you knew
there was a vehicle involved in what he did, you'd guess sailboat. Nobody in the Gurney family ever had a wrench in his hand before Dan.
   They didn't make the machine Dan Gurney couldn't race. You name it, motorcycle, sports car, stock car, Indy car, off-road truck. Oval at Indy, the streets of Monte Carlo or in the rain at night through the trees of LeMans or hairpin turns in the Pyrenees, Gurney went fast-and often first. You may have noticed in the recent story on the late, great Jimmy Clark that the driver Jimmy most feared to see in his rear-view mirror was Dan Gurney.
   Clark was not alone. A whole generation of racers grew up to curse under their breath and stand on the gas pedal when Gurney's car showed up.
   He was more than just a chauffeur. Gurney understood as well as any mechanic the complex explosions of the automobile engine and the delicate machineries of handling and tuning.
   He was as American as iced tea, but the racing Establishment was always surprised that he spoke English and didn't wear a monocle because he was so identified with Continental racing.
   Gurney actually learned to drive in the hilly roadways around Riverside but went to Europe where he was so successful so early that the great Enzo Ferrari himself signed him up.
   If it had wheels, Gurney could win with it--the Belgian Grand Prix, the French Grand Prix twice, the Mexican Grand Prix, Brand's Hatch. He won the first Grand Prix ever won by Porsche. He drove Jaguars, Cobras, Lotuses. He won at LeMans with A. J. Foyt.
   European Grand Prix racers usually steered clear of Indianapolis. The brutish, claustrophobic, recklessly competitive 500 miles there were a far cry from a champagne-and-silk-scarf run around the French Riviera or the Black Forest. Some great foreign drivers, notably Juan Fangio had taken one look at Indy's turns and gone gladly back to Mille Miglias.
    Gurney not only teed it up at Indy with the best and toughest of American drivers, he was in a large sense responsible for the rear-engine revolution there.
   The circumstances were that Gurney not only drove in the 1962 race, he paid the fare for the English designer, Colin Chapman, to go to the Speedway and investigate the possibility of putting a Ford power plant in a Lotus chassis.
   They made history. The next year, Chapman returned with two Lotus-Fords. Gurney piloted one and Clark the other. Clark finished second, Gurney seventh, and Indy racing was never the same again.
   "It didn't take Einstein to realize engines should be in the rear," Gurney says with a shrug. "Indy just didn't want to do it."
   Gurney is one of only five drivers who finished second two years in a row at Indy and the only one who finished second, second, third and then retired.
   He didn't leave the pits, just the track. He never won there in the cockpit, but the Eagle cars he designed and built won three times.
   The trouble with Gurney is, he still has the look of the All-American boy on his way to football practice. They've never had to peel Dan Gurney off a wall or cut him out of charred wreckage. In his 50s, he doesn't look markedly different from the kid who used to drag on I-5 and the Newhall grade in the '50s.
   He'll climb into a race car again Saturday at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach in an 11-turn, 10-lap pro-celebrity race competition in which a dozen of America's brand names from football fields to TV sitcoms will find out what it's like out there in cars with full roll cages, window nets, on-board fire extinguishers and competition springs.
   Unless Robert Redford shows up, the one who looks most like a movie star will probably be Gurney. It's not till they drop the flag and head for the corners that Dan looks like a race driver. Then he looks like what he was: one of the best, if not the best, ever.



Indy Victory Italian Style

   O.K., put away the lilies, and let's hear it for Italy!
   The Brickyard has lost its punch. It has hung up its guns and gone to drying dishes for the schoolmarm. The bull got its horns shaved.
   A plucky little Paisan from the donkey-cart country of Trieste traded bits with this lion of racing Friday and sent it whimpering behind a bush.
   Mario Andretti got off the floor to win this one. Only a week ago, the Brickyard showed its teeth, and, by the time the firemen got to Mario, the car could have been put in a sack. But the burn scars around his mouth and chin should heal nicely by Christmas.
   They said Mario Andretti couldn't win at this race track, and they said Andy Granatelli
couldn't set up a car that wouldn't be under a tow by 50 laps.
   The original car Mario came to qualify had only one minor fault, the wheels wouldn't stay on. But, as long as they did, they turned awfully fast.
   Andy tried to soothe him by saying this second car was really more reliable. But it was like being offered a date with the ugly sister because she could cook better than the pretty one, and could play the harpsichord.
   There is very little doubt Mario Andretti is the greatest race driver in America, maybe the world. He looks like something that fell out of your watch pocket. If he was any smaller, there wouldn't be room for his heart. People have been rooting for him to win the 500 for the same reason they rooted for Stan Musial to play in a World Series.
   But the only guy who's had worse luck than he at the 500 has been Andy Granatelli. People thought that alliance would go down faster than Mussolini's name. But the combination showed its tailpipes to the flower of American racing Friday. Mario was so far ahead at the end, he could have won on a bicycle. Even with a comfortable lead, he was driving like a guy leaving a bank robbery.
   Nineteen cars bombed out of this race. But only one crashed. This race used to kill more people than crocodiles. It used to be listed under major causes of death in this country, right below cardiac arrest. They could have card games in the hospital Friday. It ranked no higher than tonsillitis as a cause of death.
   This race was so safe, the only driver injury was an earache. The yellow light was on only 14 minutes. Most of the cars, so to speak, died in bed. In the pits.
   Andretti found out immediately his car was as plucky as he was. He asked it for speed at the flag fall and he jumped the pole driver, A.J. Foyt, before they hit the No. 1 turn. Mario led for five laps. In the pits, a friend shook his head. "He's only trying for lap money," he prophesied gloomily. If so, he picked up 116 laps worth. That's $17,400 right there. Mario's total take Friday was 10 times that.
   Mario was running a turbo-charged Hawk-Ford, whatever that is. He was running on Firestone tires, which is not a commercial but a journalistic note, because he was the only one of the finishers on that brand and never needed a change, although, if the track temperature was any higher Memorial Day, it would have bubbled.
   Mario, who is a twin, was a waif caught in the flotsam of war in Europe, when the Yugoslavs took over his hometown of Trieste. The family refugeed to Florence, Italy, then to Nazareth, Pa.
   Mama and Papa didn't find out Mario was racing until one night his twin brother, Aldo, didn't come home for dinner. The reason he didn't was, he was unconscious — for two weeks. He had piled up a stock car at Hatfield, Pa., and Mario got the parental spanking. Papa prayed at Aldo's bedside and went home and walloped Mario, who had the bad luck to survive the same race. They forbade Mario to drive. It was like telling Michelangelo to get rid of his brushes, o warning Caruso not to strain his voice singing.
   Mario Andretti was born to drive a race car. If you saw him on the street, you would take him for a Neapolitan street urchin. If you saw him in a car, you wouldn't mistake him for anything but the best.
   He has tamed the monster of racing, pointed a chair at Death and said, "Down, boy!" He has made racing an art, not a brawl. He gave a performance. He didn't inherit the race, bully it, engineer it. He sculpted it, painted it, wined it, romanced it — whatever it is you do with style and grace and technique. Whatever it is Italians do with ladies, cooking, painting and statues, Mario Andretti did to Indianapolis Friday. Leonardo da Vinci would approve. Caesar would not understand.

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