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Craig Murto: A lap around the racing world

Sometimes we need to simply make a lap around the world of racing in order to catch up, so let’s take a look at some of the newsworthy items of late.

DAN GURNEY

We recently lost Dan Gurney. Born in 1931, Gurney was one of the most famous race drivers to compete internationally from the United States.

Gurney is also one of only three drivers to win in IndyCar, NASCAR and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. His 1967 Le Mans win, teamed with fellow American A.J. Foyt, came only weeks before Gurney became the only American to win a Formula One race in a car he built himself, the All-American Eagle, at the Belgium Grand Prix.

Stateside, there was a time when Gurney ruled the road course at Riverside, California. In the 1960s he seemed to win every time NASCAR competed on the circuit.

He won as a car owner and driver in Trans-Am and Can-Am sports car racing. But even up until the end, Gurney got choked up when he thought about what he considered the biggest compliment of his life.

In Gurney’s prime as a driver, there was no doubt that Scotsman Jimmy Clark was the top-rated racer in the world. But in 1968 Clark was killed due to a deflated tire in a minor-league event, leaving the racing world in shock. Nearly 50,000 attended his funeral.

At the service, Clark’s father told Gurney that the only driver that Clark feared on track was Gurney. That’s high praise. Gurney was 86 years old.

DANICA PATRICK

The morning last week’s column came out regarding Danica Patrick, Go Daddy announced that it will sponsor her efforts to compete in the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500.

Midday Monday it was announced that Patrick will team up with Premium Motorsports. The car will carry No. 7, just as her first NASCAR ride carried, and she’ll team up with Tony Eury Jr., her original NASCAR crew chief.

RYAN ELLIS

Local favorite Ryan Ellis just got married in Asheville, North Carolina, to his lovely bride Allison. Congratulations go out to both of them.

The racing community was represented well at the ceremony and following reception. NASCAR Cup driver Matt DiBenedetto was a groomsman. TV personality Matthew Dillner was present, as was NASCAR Camping World Truck team owner Jim Rosenblum. Former Old Dominion Speedway competitor and Legends Car representative Roger Austin traveled from Florida to be present. Inthepitsmedia.com was represented by Larry O’Donohue and Shirleen Riffe.

Ellis is originally from Ashburn, and now lives in North Carolina. He handles PR duties for DiBenedetto, but may be competing part time in the Xfinity Series in 2018.

His life, however, is not just about racing; Ellis is an avid hockey player. In fact, the introductions of the wedding party played over the public address system at the reception were done by Washington Capitals announcer Wes Johnson.

SUPERCROSS

The Monster Energy Supercross Series visited Anaheim, California, on Saturday for the second time in 2018. This time, however, they raced under a different “triple crown” format.

Each class ran three main events, using “Olympic” scoring in which the first rider scores one point, second place gets two, etc. After three events the rider with the lowest score is the overall winner.

The 250 class main events were won by Joey Savatgy on a Kawasaki (race one and three) and Shane McElrath on a KTM. Savatgy scored the overall win.

The first main for the 450 class was won by Cole Seely (Honda), followed by Justin Brayton (Honda) and Blake Baggett (KTM). The second main was led by Eli Tomac on a Honda, in his return after injuries suffered three weeks ago in the first visit to Anaheim. Seely finished second, and Jason Anderson rode his Husqvarna to third.

In the final main for the 450 class, Anderson demonstrated why he leads the Supercross points as he rode away with the win. Tomac finished second, followed by Brayton in third. Tomac won the overall, a nice way to come back from his injury.

FORMULA ONE

In Formula One, it appears less likely every day that Robert Kubica will return, as nobody has signed him for the upcoming season.

He was a rising star and race winner until he was seriously hurt in 2010 in a rallying crash that left him hospitalized for two months and resulted in partial amputation of a forearm, leaving him with limited functionality. He did, however, demonstrate in testing that he can still drive an F1 machine.

Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.

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