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Parnelli Jones, Versatile Racing Legend, Dies Aged 90

Parnelli Jones death 2024 Age 90

Photo Courtesy of NASCAR Media

Rufus “Parnelli” Jones, the 1963 Indianapolis 500 champion who won six races in the Champ Car ranks and a four-time race winner in what is now known as the NASCAR Cup Series, has passed away at the age of 90, according to a report from Racer.

Jones was born on August 12, 1933 in Texarkana, Arkansas, but he grew up in Torrance, California. The iconic nickname Parnelli was bestowed upon Jones by his childhood friend Billy Calder as a means for Jones to hide his automobile racing excapades from his parents in his underage years.

After putting together one of the most illustrious careers of any race car driver in history, you would be hard-pressed to not know who Parnelli Jones was.

Jones honed his racing craft racing in a Jalopy racing series in Gardena, California. Local legend has it that Jones reached a triple digit win total in the Jalopy leagues before moving to NASCAR’s Pacific Coast Late Model Series.

Parnelli would win three races in the premier series of NASCAR between 1957 and 1959.

The tenacious, yet versatile racer would begin racing spint cars, where he would claim his first professional racing championship in 1960. A year later, the 27-year-old Jones would share Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year honors with Bobby Marshman after finishing 12th in the world’s biggest automobile race. Jones famously finished the race with a bloodied face after being pelted in the face with a chunk of metal.

Two years later, wouldn’t you know it… Jones was an Indianapolis 500 champion.

Driving for Bill Stroppe, Jones would return for one more NASCAR Cup Series win at Riverside in 1967.

Jones would make his final appearance in the Indianapolis 500 in 1967, and he would run his final NASCAR Cup Series event in 1970. Jones was onto the next adventure, which included off road racing, and sports car racing in the SCCA Trans-Am ranks.

The driver, who won in just about everything he ever stepped foot into, retired from full-time competitive driving in 1974.

In addition to his Indianapolis 500 win as a driver in 1963, Jones won the prestigious race as the car owner for Al Unser in 1970 and 1971.

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