Parnelli Jones

Parnelli Jones

12/8/1933

Rufus "Parnelli" Jones is an American racing driver who won the 1963 Indianapolis 500. In his career, Parnelli Jones won races in sports cars, Indycars, sprint cars, midget cars, off-road vehicles, and stock cars. He has two sons who are also professional drivers: P.J. Jones and Page Jones.

There are no more Jones boys like Parnelli, or any other boys for that matter, someone broke the mold.

From LaPaz, at the southern tip of Baja, to Indianapolis, from the top of Pikes Peak to Green Valley Raceway, from the dirt of Eldoro to the board room at Firestone Parnelli Jones is a legend.

His off road battles, driving Bill Stroppe's Bronco, with Walker Evans from Ensenada to LaPaz are legendary. His battles, driving the Fike Plumbing and Heating sprinter, with the likes of Foyt, Hurtubise, and the Unsers are legendary.

At Indianapolis, driving Ole Calhoun, he is a legend. He didn't need any help for that one.

His battles with Donohue, Gurney, Revson, Posey and Swede Savage among others made the Trans Am one of the most competitive series in the history of motorsports.

Parnelli won the USAC Midwest sprint car crown in 1960, he was crowned USAC Stock Car king in 1964, Rookie of the Year at the Speedway in 1961.

In 1962 he became the first driver to circle the famed 2-1/2 mile squared circle at more than 150 miles per hour.

The next year, the year of the split oil tank, Parnelli put ole Calhoun in the winners circle and claimed Tony Hulman's pot of gold.

In 1970 Mr. Jones, driving his Ford Mustang, won five Trans Am races and took the Trans Am crown by one point over Mark Donohue and his AMC Javelin.

But do you want to hear the strangest story in the legend of Parnelli Jones? Well pull up a chair and listen to this tale.

The year is 1967, Parnelli is driving Andy Granatelli's "Whooshmobile" and is making a total shambles of the proceedings. He had almost a full lap on the field with only four laps to go till the checker when the turbine coasted to a stop in the fourth turn.

After leading 171 laps Parnelli watched as Foyt drove to his third 500 victory, the Jones boy was credited with a dismal sixth place finish.

Now fast forward to May 1968. Granatelli had entered six turbines for the 500 mile sweepstakes. Jim Clark and Graham Hill were scheduled to be in two of the new creations and Andy had asked Parnelli to return in another of the silent ones.

But 1967 was still very fresh in Parnelli's mind, "I had almost a lap lead, Foyt in second was just ahead of me, I could lap him anytime I wanted to.

"I was thinking that winning the second time wasn't going to be as thrilling as it was the first time. Of course when I broke I felt really bad, not only for myself but for Andy and everybody.

"I just got to thinking if winning is not going to be that thrilling for me, and my financial future at time was in my Firestone tire stores, and I had also sacrificed my family, I just felt as though I was missing a lot of things in my life.

"I thought that this was the time to change, but I still wasn't totally convinced not to do the race in 1968"

Parnelli didn't race at the Speedway in 1968, or ever again, instead he watched in '68 as Joe Leonard coasted to a stop on the 191st lap while leading, and driving a Granatelli turbine.

Both Parnelli and Joe watched as Bobby Unser won the first of his three 500 victories.

Legends ? There are hundreds of legends in auto racing, and you have to put Parnelli Jones close to the top of the list.

Dick Ralstin

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