Parnelli's Indy 500 relevance knows no limits

Wed May 25, 2016 2:20pm EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Steve Keating

INDIANAPOLIS (Reuters) - As the oldest living winner of the Indianapolis 500, Parnelli Jones will occupy a special place of honor on Sunday when "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing" celebrates its centennial.

Over a spine-tingling century of high-octane triumphs and tragedies at the sprawling Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Jones has been part of more than half of them either as a driver, owner or distinguished spectator.

And while his duties this year will be mostly limited to an ambassador's role, the 82-year-old is quick to point out that he has never retired from racing.

But today it is the busy Los Angeles freeways that test Jones's nerve and patience rather than the sprawling 2.5 mile oval where he battled wheel-to-wheel against the likes of American running mate A.J. Foyt and British drivers Graham Hill and Jim Clark.

"I'm still not retired," Jones told Reuters in a telephone interview with Reuters from his California home. "Every day is race day in LA.

"You better pay attention, people are talking on their phones and texting. You got to be on your toes, it's kind of like driving a race car."

Jones has not been part of the Indy starting grid for decades but has left an indelible mark on the 500 putting cars in Victory Lane as both a driver (1963) and owner (1970, 1971) with Al Unser at the wheel of the Johnny Lightning Special.

A feared competitor, Mario Andretti labeled Jones the greatest of his era while Jackie Stewart described him as someone always up for a fight.   Continued...

Race car driver Parnelli Jones takes the stage for the unveiling of the 370-horsepower Saleen modified Mustang at the New York International Auto Show in New York in this April 13, 2006 file photo. REUTERS/Keith Bedford