Template:NASCAR former driver Rufus Parnell "Parnelli" Jones (born August 12, 1933 in Texarkana, Arkansas), is a retired American racing driver and racecar owner. He is most remembered for his 1963 Indianapolis 500 win, and almost winning the 1967 Indy 500 in a turbine car. [1] 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]

In his career, Parnelli Jones won races in many types of vehicles: sports cars, Indycars, sprint cars, midget cars, off-road vehicles, and stock cars. He is associated with the famous Boss 302 Mustang with his wins using the engine in the 1970s. Jones' son P. J. Jones was also a diverse driver, with IndyCar and NASCAR starts. His other son Page Jones was an up-and-coming driver before suffering career ending injuries in a sprint car at the 4-Crown Nationals.

Driving career[edit | edit source]

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. [2] Jones participated in his first race in a Jalopy race at Carroll Speedway in Gardena, California. [2] He developed his racing skills by racing in many different classes in the 1950s.

His first major championship was the Midwest region Sprint car title in 1960. He title caught the attention of promoter J. C. Agajanian, who became his sponsor. [3] He began racing at Indianapolis in 1960.

Jones was named the 1961 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year, an honor that he shared with Bobby Marshman.

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.

In the 1963 Indianapolis 500, he started on the pole. His car developed a horizontal leak in the oil reservoir with less than 40 laps to go. His car owner fought to keep the car from being black flagged. The oil level dropped to the level of the crack, and the leak stopped. Jones went on to win the race. Legendary vehicle fabricator Bill Stroppe built a 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. [2]

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 (car) decided to pull out of stock car racing after the season.

He raced won five of the nine midget car events that he entered in 1966, including the Turkey Night Grand Prix. He finished fourteen in the final points despite competing in only nine of 65 events. [1]

In 1967, he drove in the Indianapolis 500 for owner Andy Granatelli in the revolutionary Pratt & Whitney Turbine. Jones dominated the race but dropped out with four laps to go when a small inexpensive bearing broke. After 1968, turbine powered cars were legislated out of competitiveness.

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 dirt. Stroppe suggested that maybe off-road racing was too hard for Jones, and the challenge started Jones' off-road career. [2] Jones and Stroppe teamed up for the 711 mile 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 had become hooked on off-road racing. [2] Jones subsequently retired from driving IndyCars.

Jones entered the 1968 NORRA Mexican 1000 (now Baja 1000). Jones led until the 150 mile 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 away, 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. [2] 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 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 an 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 | edit source]

Jones retired with six IndyCar wins and twelve pole positions, four wins in 34 NASCAR starts [4] , 25 midget car feature wins in occasional races between 1960 and 1967 [1], and 25 career sprint car wins [1].

Car owner[edit | edit source]

Jones started Vel’s Parnelli Jones Racing, which won the Indianapolis 500 again as an owner in 1970 and 1971 with driver Al Unser driving the Johnny Lightning special. The team also won the 1971, 1972, and 1973 USAC National Championships.

Jones owned the Parnelli 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. [2]

Career awards[edit | edit source]

Jones is inducted in over 20 Halls of Fame [2] including:

Businessman[edit | edit source]

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 distrubuted shock absorbers, passenger car tires, and other automotive products to retail tire dealers. [2]

2007 Mustang[edit | edit source]

Steve Saleen, who operates the Saleen Incorporated car manufacturing company in the United States, made a limited edition (500 of them) Ford Mustang Saleen S302 Parnelli Jones commemorating Parnelli's 1970 SCCA Ford Mustang Boss racer.

Indy 500 results[edit | edit source]

Year[5] Car Start Qual[6] 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

References[edit | edit source]

Jones Family
Parnelli Jones | P.J. Jones
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