Parnelli Jones, hard-charging race driver who received the controversial Indianapolis 500 in 1963, has died


Parnelli Jones, a hard-bitten, hard-charging race driver who got here out of Torrance and received the controversial Indianapolis 500 in 1963, then was the hard-luck loser 4 years later, died Tuesday at Torrance Memorial Medical Middle after a battle with Parkinson’s illness. He was 90.

On the time of his loss of life, Jones was the oldest residing winner of the Indy 500. And though he received the race at Indy — then unquestionably the largest motor sports activities occasion on the planet — solely as soon as and ran in it solely seven instances, he stands as one of many dominant figures of his driving period, an period that additionally produced A.J. Foyt, Jim Clark, Dan Gurney and Richard Petty. Certainly, Jones raced towards — and beat — all of them sooner or later in his profession.

And a busy profession it was, for Jones favored to drive something that could possibly be raced. He received in midget vehicles and dash vehicles, Indy vehicles and inventory vehicles, sports activities vehicles and, after deciding that the calls for of observe racing had been getting in the way in which of his burgeoning enterprise pursuits, off-road racers.

It was at Indianapolis, although, that Jones made his title and grew his fame.

Jones received there in 1961, driving for the late San Pedro promoter/character/businessman J.C. Agajanian. He certified fifth, completed twelfth and was named co-rookie of the yr with Bobby Marshman. In a portent of issues to return, Australian Jack Brabham completed ninth in a Cooper Climax, a modified model of the automobile he drove in European Components One races. The Cooper’s engine was mounted behind the motive force.

In 1962, Jones electrified the Indy crowds, changing into the primary driver to interrupt 150 mph and successful the pole with a qualifying pace of 150.137. He was working away with the race when his automobile’s brakes failed at about 300 miles, however he stored going, finally ending seventh.

By 1963, issues had modified at Indy. Gurney, on the time a Components One common from Costa Mesa, had satisfied English automobile builder Colin Chapman {that a} rear-engine automobile might win the five hundred if solely it had a stronger energy plant than the one which had been in Brabham’s Cooper. Chapman persuaded Ford Motor Co. to satisfy his V-8 engine necessities and constructed the primary of what had been to change into revolutionary Lotus-Fords, pencil-thin vehicles that regarded like spiders capering by means of the turns. There was one for Gurney and one other for Clark.

In opposition to these stood the normal Indy roadsters, long-snouted brutes wherein drivers sat bolt-upright behind the engines, most of them the growling four-cylinder Offenhausers that had dominated the speedway because the finish of World Battle II. They made the rear-engine vehicles look nearly dainty and had been pushed by the normal Indy regulars — Foyt, Jones, Jim Hurtubise, Rodger Ward and others.

The Lotus-Fords had been the speak of the city however Jones, in his four-year-old No. 98, “Ol’ Calhoun,” dominated the monthlong pace derby, once more sitting on the pole with a qualifying pace of 151.153 mph. He dominated the race too, main for 167 of the 200 laps across the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and was comfortably forward when the second-running Clark made his transfer with 30 laps left.

Clark reduce Jones’ result in 4 1/2 seconds and Jones’ automobile was exuding ominous puffs of black smoke, the results of a leaking oil reservoir. Based on Jones, oil was spraying onto the engine and sizzling exhaust pipe, inflicting the smoke.

A few of that oil, although, was additionally going onto the observe, creating a security hazard.

Chapman scrambled to the officers’ stand, pleading with Chief Steward Harlan Fengler to place out a black flag for Jones, calling him to the pits. Agajanian, unmistakable in his trademark cowboy hat, urged Fengler to let Jones journey out the disaster.

?url=https%3A%2F%2Fcalifornia times parnelli jones auto racing 49974 - Parnelli Jones, hard-charging race driver who received the controversial Indianapolis 500 in 1963, has died

Parnelli Jones smiles after he received the pole for the Yankee 300 inventory automobile race at Indianapolis Raceway Park in April 1963.

(Related Press)

Whereas the argument raged, fourth-running Eddie Sachs spun, bringing out the yellow flag briefly, then spun once more and crashed 9 laps later. In the course of the warning interval that adopted, Jones one way or the other gained two seconds again on Clark. And one way or the other, too, his oil drawback stopped, the extent in his automobile’s oil tank having fallen under the world of the leak. Jones set sail once more and received simply as Clark backed off.

Mentioned a crushed Clark, “I noticed what Sachs did and I didn’t wish to do the identical factor. I’d skidded a bit myself.” He added, “I received beat by the yellow mild. The yellow and the oil … I lowered my pace [during the caution period] and held my place. Different folks went proper on by, although, and Parnelli truly elevated his lead.”

Jones maintained that he was merely attempting to guard himself in a harmful state of affairs. “I noticed a gap and I simply gunned it and received out of there,” he mentioned.

Even so, many thought of Clark the rightful winner, arguing that the choice was merely the Indianapolis Institution taking good care of considered one of its personal. Sachs, in actual fact, mentioned on nationwide TV that he’d spun in Jones’ oil and that Jones’ victory was “tainted.” The subsequent day, at a gathering in a close-by motel, Jones requested Sachs to repeat what he’d mentioned on TV. Sachs did, an argument ensued and Jones punched Sachs within the mouth, drawing blood.

By 1967, issues had once more modified at Indy. Jones had quietly retired from Indy automobile racing, Europeans Clark and Graham Hill had received the earlier two races in rear-engine machines and practically everybody else was driving them as nicely. However flamboyant automobile proprietor Andy Granatelli had one other thought.

He got here with a four-wheel-drive automobile that was as radical a departure because the previous Brickyard had ever seen. For one factor, it made virtually no noise. For an additional, the motive force sat neither in entrance of nor behind the engine, however beside it. And the engine? It was a Pratt & Whitney turbine — mainly a jet — much like these utilized in many plane. The automobile, shortly dubbed “the Whooshmobile,” was born amid immediate controversy. Based on the principles, although, it was authorized.

Granatelli talked Jones out of his temporary retirement, however the automobile was like nothing Jones had ever pushed. The gearbox was too fragile to deal with the engine’s energy and on qualifying day, after having gone by means of 4 of them in observe, the crew put in the final one readily available.

Jones eased to a qualifying spot, at 166.098 mph, on the surface of the second row, however on race day, there was no query the place the pace lay. With a beefed-up gearbox, Jones shortly staked the turbine automobile to the lead when rain interrupted after 18 laps.

It was extra of the identical when the race was resumed the following day, and Jones was whooshing together with a 54-second lead, simply wanting a lap, with solely 4 laps left.

Then, abruptly, a bearing within the gearbox failed, Jones dropped again and Foyt, threading his manner by means of a multi-car accident on the ultimate lap, scored the third of his 4 Indy victories.

And, though he would win twice extra at Indy as a automobile proprietor — with Al Unser in 1970 and 71 — that was it for Jones as an Indy automobile driver.

Rufus Parnell Jones was born Aug. 12, 1933, in Texarkana, Ark., however lived most of his life within the Los Angeles space. As a profitable driver-businessman, he resided in Rolling Hills on the Palos Verdes Peninsula.

And the way did Rufus Parnell change into Parnelli? Based on one rationalization, Parnelli was an aunt’s pet title for her younger nephew. Based on one other, a boyhood buddy teasingly known as Jones Parnellie, after the woman’s title, Nellie. When an underage Jones wished to go racing, and didn’t need his household to find out about it, he dropped the “e” from Parnellie, put the title on a phony ID card and have become well-known as Parnelli Jones.

“Parnelli will without end be top-of-the-line we’ve got ever seen behind the wheel,” mentioned Dave Allen, president of the West Area of NASCAR and the Auto Membership Speedway. “It didn’t matter what he drove, he was quick! He shall be missed as a buddy and a real legend. My ideas and nicely needs exit to the Jones household and all of the folks Rufus impacted in his superb life. Keep on the fuel my buddy.”

Had Jones not chosen Indy vehicles, he may nicely have change into well-known in inventory vehicles. In 1963 and ’64, he was the phobia of the U.S. Auto Membership’s inventory automobile division, then on a par with a fledgling NASCAR. He received seven consecutive races in that span on the Milwaukee Mile, then USAC inventory automobile’s essential observe with 4 races a season. He ran sparingly in NASCAR’s premier Grand Nationwide division — now the NASCAR Cup Collection — however nonetheless received 4 instances.

After his retirement from Indy automobile racing, Jones turned to the Sports activities Automotive Membership of America’s Trans-Am sedan sequence, received a championship there to go along with his earlier USAC midget, dash automobile and inventory automobile titles, and fashioned, with the late Vel Miletich, his longtime enterprise companion, an Indy automobile group. With Andretti, Unser and Joe Leonard driving, it shortly turned often known as “Superteam,” dominating Indy automobile racing for a number of seasons. In off-road racing, he was a a number of winner of the Baja 1000.

His actual property and car-related companies flourished, however not every thing he touched turned to gold. When the Ontario Motor Speedway, constructed as “the Indianapolis Speedway of the West,” fell on onerous instances, he and Miletich tried to put it aside however couldn’t. And a Components One group he arrange for Andretti went beneath when Jones couldn’t appeal to sponsors.

A member of assorted racing halls of fame, Jones as soon as mentioned, “Indy is the World Collection of auto racing. Within the seven years I drove, I had a superb likelihood at successful 5 instances. I had some God-given expertise, a will to win and a can’t-stand-to-lose perspective. Race automobile driving is harmful, however you possibly can’t be afraid. You must rely by yourself means.”

Jones is survived by his spouse, Judy, and sons PJ and Web page, each of whom adopted him into racing.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here