The Info List - Parnelli Jones

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Rufus Parnell "Parnelli" Jones (born August 12, 1933 in Texarkana, Arkansas) is a retired American racing driver and race car owner. He is most remembered for his accomplishments at the Indianapolis
500. In 1962, he became the first driver to qualify over 150 mph. He won the race in 1963, then famously broke down while leading the 1967 race with three laps to go in a turbine car.[1] During his career as an owner, he won the Indy 500 in 1970-1971 with driver Al Unser, Sr. Jones won races in many types of vehicles: sports cars, IndyCars, sprint cars, midget cars, off-road vehicles, and stock cars. He is also remembered for bringing the stock block engine to USAC Sprint car racing as one of the "Chevy Twins" with Jim Hurtubise.[1] He is associated with the famous Boss 302 Mustang
Boss 302 Mustang
with his wins using the engine in the 1970s. Jones' son P. J. Jones
P. J. Jones
was also a diverse driver, with IndyCar
starts and a championship in IMSA prototype sports cars. His other son Page Jones was an up-and-coming driver before suffering career ending (and life-threatening) injuries in a sprint car at the 4-Crown Nationals, and has been in rehabilitation, working with his father-in-law. Following the death of 1960 Indianapolis 500
Indianapolis 500
winner Jim Rathmann,[2] Jones is now the oldest living "500" winner.


1 Driving career

1.1 Driving career summary

2 Car owner 3 Documentary 4 Career awards 5 Businessman 6 2007 Ford Mustang Limited Edition 7 Indianapolis 500
Indianapolis 500
results 8 References 9 External links

Driving career[edit] Jones' family moved to Torrance, California, where he grew up (and still lives). He was nicknamed Parnelli by his boyhood friend Billy Calder, who hoped that the Jones family would not discover their son was racing cars as a 17-year-old minor.[3] Jones participated in his first race in a Jalopy
race at Carrell Speedway in Gardena, California.[3] He developed his racing skills by racing in many different classes in the 1950s, including 15 stock car racing wins in the NASCAR
Pacific Coast Late Model Series.[4] His first major championship was the Midwest region Sprint car title in 1960. The title caught the attention of promoter J. C. Agajanian, who became his sponsor.[5] He began racing at Indianapolis
in 1961. Jones was named the 1961 Indianapolis 500
Indianapolis 500
Rookie of the Year, an honor that he shared with Bobby Marshman. Jones led early in the race and ran among the leaders until being hit in the face with a stone, bloodying his face, blurring his vision and slowing him to a 12th-place finish. In 1962, he was the first driver to qualify over 150 mph at the Indianapolis
500, winning the pole position at a speed of 150.370 mph (241.997 km/h). Jones dominated the first two-thirds of the race until a brake line failure slowed him, and he settled for a seventh-place finish.

Jones drives the car he drove in the Indianapolis 500
Indianapolis 500
from 1961 through 1964 around the Indianapolis
Motor Speedway track in 2012.

In the 1963 Indianapolis
500, he started on the pole. This was the year the controversial Lotus-Ford rear-engined cars made their first appearance, and had ruffled the Indianapolis
establishment. Before the race, the chief steward, Harlan Fengler, told the teams that he would black-flag any cars that leaked oil on the track, warning, "Don't believe me, just try me." With Scotsman Jim Clark
Jim Clark
in a Lotus-Ford closing on Jones in the waning laps, Jones' car developed a horizontal crack in the external oil reservoir. At that moment, driver Eddie Sachs crashed on the oil-slickened racing surface and brought out a yellow caution flag, slowing the field. Agajanian, Jones' car owner, argued with chief steward Harlan Fengler not to issue a black flag, insisting the oil level had dropped below the level of the crack, and that the leak had stopped. As Agajanian pleaded with Fengler, Lotus head man Colin Chapman rushed up to join the conversation and demanded that Fengler follow the rules about disqualifying cars with oil leaks. With the end of the race just minutes away, Fengler took no action, and Jones went on to win. The Lotus-Ford team, while unhappy with the obvious favoritism displayed by race officials toward Jones and Agajanian, also acknowledged Jones' clear superiority in the event. In addition, Ford officials recognized that a victory through disqualification of Clark's biggest competitor would not be well received by the public, so they declined to protest. Also that year, legendary vehicle fabricator Bill Stroppe built a Mercury Marauder
Mercury Marauder
USAC Stock car for Jones. Jones won the 1963 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in the car, and broke the stock car speed record.[3] In 1964, he won 7 races (and tied for a win) on his way to the USAC Stock car crown. He won the Turkey Night Grand Prix midget car event. Mercury decided to pull out of stock car racing after the season. He won five of the nine midget car events that he entered in 1966, including the Turkey Night Grand Prix. He finished fourteenth in the final points despite competing in only nine of 65 events.[1]

Jones's STP-Paxton Turbocar
STP-Paxton Turbocar
from the 1967 Indianapolis

In 1967, he drove in the Indianapolis 500
Indianapolis 500
for owner Andy Granatelli
Andy Granatelli
in the revolutionary STP-Paxton Turbocar. Jones dominated the race but dropped out with three laps to go when a small, inexpensive transmission bearing broke. After 1968, turbine-powered cars were legislated out of competitiveness. Also in 1967, as part of his stock car contract with the Lincoln-Mercury division of the Ford Motor Company, Jones drove a Mercury Cougar for Bud Moore in the second-year Trans Am series. In April, Jones dueled with teammate, friend and rival Dan Gurney
Dan Gurney
in a brutal 300-mile (480 km), 4-hour event at Green Valley, Texas in 113-degree heat, losing by inches to Gurney. Stroppe suggested that Jones try his hand at off-road racing in front of a large crowd at a Christmas party in 1967. Jones at first said no, since he had enough of dirt. Stroppe suggested that maybe off-road racing was too hard for Jones, and the challenge started Jones' off-road career.[3] Jones and Stroppe teamed up for the 711-mile (1,144 km) Star Dust 7/11 race across the Nevada
desert in early 1968. Jones had never driven or pre-run the Ford Bronco. Jones hit a dry wash at full speed, which broke the wheels and blew out the front tires. Jones would later have a guest appearance in the original film Gone in 60 Seconds featuring him and his Bronco which was stolen in the plot. Jones had become hooked on off-road racing.[3] In 1968, Jones headed a super-roster of seven drivers signed by Andy Granatelli to drive STP Lotus 56
Lotus 56
turbine cars in an unprecedented single-team assault on the Indianapolis
500. The deaths of Jim Clark and Mike Spence, plus a serious injury to Jackie Stewart, whittled the entry to four. Jones, testing his reworked 1967 car in practice, was dissatisfied with the car's performance compared to the newer "wedge"-shaped Lotus 56
Lotus 56
turbines, and had concluded the car was unsafe. He stepped out of the car, which was subsequently assigned to Joe Leonard, who promptly wrecked the car in practice. Jones retired from driving IndyCars, but later admitted, "If I hadn't already won Indy, they could never have kept me out of that car." Jones entered the 1968 NORRA Mexican 1000 (now Baja 1000). Jones led until the 150-mile (240 km) marker. The Off-road Motorsports Hall of Fame describes Jones' racing style: "Jones and Stroppe had to find a way to keep their vehicles in one piece. During races Jones would push the vehicles at maximum speeds until they gave way, with Stroppe telling him at top volume the entire time to take it easier on the vehicle." Jones had a special car fabricated that looked like a Bronco, but had racing parts that could withstand rigorous jarring that off-road vehicles endure. Jones named the vehicle "Big Oly" after his sponsor Olympia Beer.[3] Jones used the vehicle to lead the Mexican 1000 from start to finish in a new record time of 14 hours and 59 minutes. Jones had major wins in the 1973 season. He won his second Mexican 1000 in 16 hours and 42 minutes. He also won the 1973 Baja 500 and Mint 400
Mint 400
off-road events. Jones had a major accident at SCORE International's 1974 Baja 500, and stepped away from full-time off-road racing to become a race car owner. Jones raced SCCA Trans Am sedans owned by Bud Moore: Mercury Cougar (1967) and Ford Mustang (1969—1971). Parnelli's dominance of the extremely competitive 1970 season brought Ford the manufacturer's championship. Driving career summary[edit] Jones retired with six IndyCar
wins and twelve pole positions, four wins in 34 NASCAR
starts, including the 1967 Motor Trend 500
Motor Trend 500
at Riverside,[6] 25 midget car feature wins in occasional races between 1960 and 1967,[1] and 25 career sprint car wins.[1] His fifteen wins is eighth on the all-time in NASCAR
Pacific Coast Late Model history.[4] In 1993, Jones took part in the Fast Masters. He advanced to the final championship round and placed 6th overall. Car owner[edit]

1970 Indianapolis 500
Indianapolis 500
winning car (#2). The 1971 winning car (#1) is visible to the left.

Jones started Vel’s Parnelli Jones Racing, which won the Indianapolis 500
Indianapolis 500
again as an owner in 1970 and 1971 with driver Al Unser driving the Johnny Lightning
Johnny Lightning
special. The team also won the 1970, 1971, and 1972 USAC National Championships. Jones owned the Parnelli Formula One
Formula One
race team from late 1974 to early 1976, although it achieved little success. Jones returned to off-road racing as owner of Walker Evans' 1976 SCORE truck, and Evans won the championship. They teamed up for the 1977 CORE Class 2 championship. Jones owned vehicles that took class wins at the Baja 500 and Baja 1000. His USAC Dirt Car won two championships and the Triple Crown three times.[3] Documentary[edit] Jones starred in the one-hour documentary Behind the Indianapolis
500 with Parnelli Jones. Narrated by Bob Varsha, the film takes viewers behind the scenes of the Indianapolis
500, through the eyes and experiences of Parnelli Jones. In addition to Parnelli, Rick Mears, Mario Andretti, Bobby Unser, Al Unser, Jr., PJ Jones, Chip Ganassi, and others are interviewed throughout. The film was selected for the 2016 Sun Valley Film Festival, which Parnelli and Bob Varsha
Bob Varsha
attended. Career awards[edit] Jones is inducted in over 20 Halls of Fame[3] including:

the Off-road Motorsports Hall of Fame (1976)[3] the International Motorsports Hall of Fame
International Motorsports Hall of Fame
(1990) the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame
National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame
(1990)[1] the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame (1991) the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America (1992) the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame (2002)[4]

Businessman[edit] Jones owned and operated several successful businesses. He owned Parnelli Jones Inc., which operated 47 retail Parnelli Jones Tire Centers in four states. Parnelli Jones Enterprises was a chain of Firestone Racing Tires in 14 Western United States. Parnelli Jones Wholesale was a reseller which sold and distributed shock absorbers, passenger car tires, and other automotive products to retail tire dealers.[3] 2007 Ford Mustang Limited Edition[edit] Saleen, Incorporated, in Irvine, California, produced a limited edition (500 unit) 2007 Saleen
S302 PJ commemorating Parnelli's 1970 SCCA Ford Mustang Boss 302 racer. This limited-production mustang comes with a stroked out version of the stock Mustang GT 281 c.i. engine. With the new displacement reaching 302 c.i. the new engine power rating is 400 hp (300 kW) and 390 lb/ft of torque. Other special performance enhancements to this car include a special Watts-Link suspension unique to the 1970 Boss Mustang used by Parnelli Jones. Indianapolis 500
Indianapolis 500

Year[7] Car Start Qual Rank Finish Laps Led Retired

1961 98 5 146.080 7 12 192 27 Flagged

1962 98 1 150.370 1 7 200 120 Running

1963 98 1 151.153 1 1 200 167 Running

1964 98 4 155.099 4 23 55 7 Pit fire

1965 98 5 158.625 5 2 200 0 Running

1966 98 4 162.484 4 14 87 0 Wheel Bearing

1967 40 6 166.075 6 6 196 171 Bearing

Totals 1130 492

Starts 7

Poles 2

Front Row 2

Wins 1

Top 5 2

Top 10 4

Retired 3


^ a b c d e f Biography Archived 2007-09-27 at the Wayback Machine. at the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame ^ "Robin Miller's Farewell to Jim Rathmann". SPEED. 23 November 2011. Archived from the original on 27 December 2011. Retrieved 20 December 2011.  ^ a b c d e f g h i j Biography Archived 2011-09-30 at the Wayback Machine. at the Off-road Motorsports Hall of Fame ^ a b c Biography at the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame, Retrieved November 8, 2007 ^ Biography Archived 2006-04-27 at the Wayback Machine. at the International Motorsports Hall of Fame ^ NASCAR
stats at racing-reference.com ^ Parnelli Jones Indy 500 Race Stats

External links[edit]

VPJ Racing Collection Website Biography The Greatest 33

Sporting positions

Preceded by Jim Hurtubise Indianapolis
500 Rookie of the Year 1961 With Bobby Marshman Succeeded by Jim McElreath

Preceded by Rodger Ward Indianapolis 500
Indianapolis 500
Winner 1963 Succeeded by A. J. Foyt

v t e

Vel's Parnelli Jones Racing in Formula One

Founders Parnelli Jones Velko Miletich

Noted Personnel Maurice Philippe

Notable drivers Mario Andretti

Formula One
Formula One
cars VPJ4 VPJ4B

v t e

Indianapolis 500
Indianapolis 500



A. J. Foyt Rick Mears Al Unser, Sr.


Hélio Castroneves Dario Franchitti Louis Meyer Mauri Rose Johnny Rutherford Wilbur Shaw Bobby Unser


Emerson Fittipaldi Gordon Johncock Arie Luyendyk Tommy Milton Juan Pablo Montoya Al Unser, Jr. Bill Vukovich Rodger Ward Dan Wheldon


Mario Andretti Billy Arnold Joe Boyer Kenny Bräck Jimmy Bryan Eddie Cheever Gaston Chevrolet Jim Clark Lora L. Corum Bill Cummings Floyd Davis Joe Dawson Gil de Ferran Pat Flaherty Fred Frame Ralph DePalma Pete DePaolo Scott Dixon Mark Donohue Jules Goux Sam Hanks Ray Harroun Graham Hill Bill Holland Sam Hornish, Jr. Ryan Hunter-Reay Parnelli Jones Tony Kanaan Ray Keech Buddy Lazier Frank Lockhart Jimmy Murphy Johnnie Parsons Kelly Petillo Bobby Rahal Jim Rathmann Dario Resta Buddy Rice Floyd Roberts George Robson Alexander Rossi Troy Ruttman Takuma Sato Louis Schneider Tom Sneva George Souders Danny Sullivan Bob Sweikert René Thomas Jacques Villeneuve Lee Wallard Howdy Wilcox


J. C. Agajanian Michael Andretti Eddie Cheever Louis Chevrolet A. J. Foyt Chip Ganassi Kim Green Andy Granatelli Dan Gurney Jim Hall Ron Hemelgarn Bryan Herta Parnelli Jones Kevin Kalkhoven Howard Keck Frank Kurtis David Letterman Louis Meyer Lou Moore Jimmy Murphy Pat Patrick Roger Penske Kelly Petillo Bobby Rahal Wilbur Shaw Doug Shierson Fred Treadway Jim Trueman Jimmy Vasser


A. J. Foyt
A. J. Foyt
Enterprises All American Racers Andretti-Green Racing/Andretti Autosport Bryan Herta
Bryan Herta
Autosport Chaparral Cars Cheever Racing Chip Ganassi
Chip Ganassi
Racing Doug Shierson Racing Galles/KRACO Racing Hemelgarn Racing KV Racing Technology McLaren
Racing Limited Mecom Racing Team Patrick Racing Penske Racing Rahal Letterman Racing Team Green Team Lotus Treadway Racing Truesports Vel's Parnelli Jones Racing

Authority control

WorldCat Identities VIAF: 53914919 LCCN: no2006124