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Jun 5, 2024 12:41 pm

Racing icon Parnelli Jones dies at 90

parnelli jones

Parnelli Jones, who won the Indianapolis 500 in 1963, died Tuesday in Torrance, Calif. He was 90.

“The racing world has lost a great competitor and a true champion,” read a statement from Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Roger Penske. “Parnelli Jones was one of the most accomplished racers in history, and his determination and will to win made him one of the toughest competitors I have ever seen.

“From racing against him on track to competing against him as a fellow team owner, I always respected Parnelli’s passion and commitment to the sport he loved. I was proud to call Parnelli a good friend for many years, and our thoughts are with his family as we remember one of the true legends of motorsports.”

Jones, a native of Arkansas who was raised in Southern California, became the first driver to qualify for the Indy 500 at a speed in excess of 150 mph. He also is the only driver to lead the race twice for 400 or more miles, according to the IndyCar series.

He took part in seven Indianapolis 500 races and led for 171 of the first 196 laps in 1967 before a ball bearing broke three laps from the finish.

Jones retired as an Indy car driver in 1968 at age 34 but co-owned the team that won the Indy 500 in 1970 and 1971 with Al Unser behind the wheel.

He drove in other disciplines, too, including on the NASCAR Cup Series circuit until 1970, winning four times. His final NASCAR victory came at the Motor Trend 500 at Riverside International Raceway on Jan. 22, 1967.

His team, Vel’s Parnelli Jones Racing, also branched out in Formula One, the Sports Car Club of America’s Formula 5000 road racing series and the USAC Dirt Car series.

Still, it was his win 61 years ago in Indianapolis that Jones said defined him.

“The thing about Indianapolis is that it gives you a title for all time, it opens doors for you forever,” Jones told Motorsport.com in 2016. “I won a lot of races in other cars — sprint cars, midgets, stock cars, Baja 1000, because that’s what a lot of us did in those days. But even so, I’m introduced as the ’63 Indy 500 winner. That’s the status this place gives you.”

–Field Level Media

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