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Parnelli Jones, 1963 Indianapolis 500 Champion, Dead at 90

Parnelli Jones, winner of the 1963 Indianapolis 500 and two-time Baja 1000 champion, passed away Tuesday (June 4) at the age of 90.

His son PJ Jones announced the passing of his father on his Facebook page.

“He had battled Parkinson’s for the last few years. I will miss him greatly!” said PJ.

Parnelli began his racing career on the NASCAR circuit in 1956, running three races in the Grand National Series. He raced sparingly, running 34 races over 12 seasons. He scored four career wins, winning one race apiece from 1957-1959 and tacking on one more in 1967.

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Jones then shifted his focus to Champ Car (now the NTT IndyCar Series), competing in the famous Indy 500 that year. He was named the race’s co-Rookie of the Year along with Bobby Marshman. He won his first career Champ Car race later that year at Phoenix Raceway.

He went on to win back-to-back poles in the 1962 and 1963 editions of the Indy 500, winning the latter. In total, Jones won six career Champ Car events, spanning between 1961 and 1965, scoring a best points finish of third in 1962.

Following his Champ Car career, Jones tried his hand at off-road racing and won back-to-back Baja 1000s with co-driver Bill Stroppe in 1972 and 1973. He stepped away from driving after an accident in the 1974 edition of the event.

Jones also won four USAC titles, including three straight sprint car championships from 1960-1962 (though in 1960, the series was split between midwest and east divisions; Jones won the midwest while AJ Foyt won the east). His fourth championship came in the now-defunct USAC Stock Car Series in 1964.

Parnelli is the patriarch of the Jones racing family, as his son PJ followed in his father’s footsteps of becoming a multidisciplinary driver. He competed in open wheel, NASCAR and Stadium Super Truck Series events in his 29-year career spanning from 1989-2017. His most success coming in the Stadium Super Truck Series, winning four races from 2013-2017.

Parnelli’s grandson and PJ’s son Jagger Jones is the third generation of Jones to compete in racing. He competed in the ARCA Menards Series West in 2019, earning one win at All American Speedway, before moving to open wheel racing. He competed in the USF2000 National Championship in 2022 before moving to Indy NXT for the 2023 season. Jagger now competes in the IMSA VP Racing Sports Car Challenge.

About the author

Frontstretch.com

Anthony Damcott joined Frontstretch in March 2022. Currently, he is an editor and co-authors Fire on Fridays (Fridays); he is also the primary Truck Series reporter/writer. A proud West Virginia Wesleyan College alum from Akron, Ohio, Anthony is now a grad student. He is a theatre actor and fight-choreographer-in-training in his free time. 

You can keep up with Anthony by following @AnthonyDamcott on Twitter.

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Wildcarsfan2016

Thanks for posting the article. He had an amazing career. My sympathy to his family and friends

Last edited 17 days ago by Wildcarsfan2016
Bobby DK

Rufus Parnell Jones. RIP. Tearing up tracks and the desert.

Tony

An Incredibly versatile competitor who was a threat pretty much anywhere he went, with the diverse wins to prove it. Great storyteller too.

DoninAjax

Jones won a Cup race at Riverside in 1967 that was FIVE HUNDRED MILES and FIVE AND A HALF HOURS. Imagine that at the Charlotte infield circuit!

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