Parnelli Jones, a name synonymous with daring wheel-to-wheel competition and relentless pursuit of victory, took his final checkered flag on Tuesday at the age of 90.

The legendary racer’s son, PJ, confirmed the news on social media, revealing that Jones – who was the oldest living winner of the Indianapolis 500 – had been battling Parkinson’s disease for several years.

Born Rufus Parnell Jones in Texarkana, Arkansas in 1933, his passion for racing ignited at the young age of 17 and built a legacy etched not only in the record books but also in the memories of racing enthusiasts worldwide.

His 1963 Indy 500 triumph remains a testament to his exceptional talent and unwavering spirit.

He dominated qualifying, setting a blistering pace of 151.153 mph, a record at the time, and then went on to win the event by a commanding 33 seconds over future Formula One legend Jimmy Clark.

However, victory in the grueling 500-mile contest rarely comes without a twist. Jones’ car sprung a leak in the closing stages of the race, spewing oil and smoke onto the track.

Race officials mulled over disqualifying him, but cooler heads prevailed. The controversy continued the next day when fellow drivers Eddie Sachs and Roger McCluskey blamed Jones’ oil slick for causing their spins. And tensions flared at a luncheon, resulting in a fistfight between Jones and Sachs.

Despite this incident, Jones’ career was a masterclass in versatility. He competed in the Indy 500 seven times, consistently challenging for the top spot.

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In 1967, his final attempt at glory at Indy, he came within three laps of taking the famous Borg-Warner home a second time.

Alas, his Andy Granatelli-STP owned Paxton Turbine car retired when a small, inexpensive transmission bearing broke.

Jone’s talent wasn’t confined to the Brickyard, however as he conquered a wide range of motorsports, leaving his mark on sports cars, sprint cars – where he racked up an impressive 25 wins, midget cars – collecting another 25 wins, off-road vehicles – securing four Baja distance victories, and even stock cars, amassing 22 NASCAR West Coast Stock wins and 4 Cup wins.

Even after hanging up his helmet, Jones remained deeply involved in the sport. He co-owned the cars that propelled Al Unser to victory in the 1970 and 1971 Indy 500 races.

Mario Andretti racing on to P5 in the 1975 French GP at Paul Ricard with Vel’s Parnelli.

His thirst for innovation also led him to establish with business partner Vel Miletich a Formula 1 team – Vel’s Parnelly Jones Racing – where fellow racing legend Mario Andretti took the wheel between 1974 and 1976.

Parnelli Jones leaves behind a legacy that transcends statistics and trophies. He was a true pioneer, a master of his craft, and a man who embodied the relentless pursuit of excellence on the racetrack.

His impact on the world of motorsports will undoubtedly continue to inspire generations of drivers to come.

Parnelli Jones: 1933 – 2024.

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