Memorable Milestones

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Cannonball Run Start - Manhattan NY

Over the years, Gurney and I got better acquainted and I was lucky enough to be in California on one truly memorable occasion. Meeting with Dan for lunch, we were returning with Max Muhleman and Swede Savage to the All-American Racers shop where his Eagle racing cars were being built. After countless racing stories, Curtis Turner's famous "bootleg" turn was discussed.

For those of you unaware of this maneuver, Muhleman described it best as he explained, "it's dead simple ... all you've gotta do is throw the wheel over and hit the hand brake." In essence, complete a 180-degree turn and punch the gas at a high rate of speed. Good times! Also ... highly illegal.

Dan picked up the gauntlet making a few feeble attempts, until the ribbing from the backseat sparked his competitive streak. He finally perfected the turn, ultimately scaring the crap out of the guy in the Volvo behind us, who probably still feels like he saw the face of God that day

In light of his talent, intellect and the fact that he's a little bit nuts, Dan was one of my first choices when I decided to run Cannonball.


Having initially turned me down, Gurney changed his mind and flew to New York to co-drive, and ultimately win, the 1971 Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash. We raced coast to coast in a 4.4-liter Ferrari 365GTB/4 Daytona in 35 hours and 54 minutes, marking a time which has never been beaten (legitimately). Glare ice, snowstorms, traffic and a dedicated, yet cranky cop added to our experience, but did not alter our course.

Dan's stamina and skill behind the wheel still amaze me all these years later.

While my respect for Dan Gurney is great, and I enjoy reflecting on our past, my intention in writing this column is to tell a story that has rarely been told—a story that binds us together not simply as peers, but so as Americans and human beings. As the summer wanes and September approaches, my thoughts will forever drift to Dan, his wonderful wife Evi and an event that broke America's heart.

As with most people, I mark the passage of time with milestones; instances in my life that define me—snapshots and occasions that capture a moment in time, reflecting historic and personal events that remain indelibly etched in my mind. As a nation, we also have those milestones that shape our character.

If you are old enough, who among us doesn't remember where we were when President Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. were assassinated? Where were you the day the music died, when Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper crashed into that quiet field in Iowa? The moonwalk, the space shuttle disaster, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the end of the Cold War are all seminal moments in our history and as such, have bound us together through achievement and adversity; changing us individually, while strengthening us as a nation. September 11 was just such an event.

As we again approach the anniversary of that tragic day, my wife Pamela and I often think of the personal experiences which shaped that day and the subsequent week that followed.

In the days leading up to 9/11 we were spending time with Dan and Evi after they attended a race at Watkins Glen.

On the morning of September 11th, we were preparing to take them to the airport when the phone rang. My son explained that a plane had gone into the World Trade Center and, while still on the phone, the four of us watched in horror as the second plane hit.

During that tragic week, while planes were grounded and lives were shattered, the four of us were inexorably linked. Through shock and fear, anger and tears, we :connected with our loved ones and each other. We talked endlessly, finding rare moments of laughter, while trying to come to terms with how our lives and the world around us had changed.

Every year since that day, no matter where we are in the world, we make sure to reconnect, whether by phone or email, as succor to wounds which have still not healed. - Brock Yates