Parnelli Jones: 1933-2024

Indy 500 winner Parnelli Jones, hailed by Mario Andretti as the greatest driver of his era, has died aged 90

Parnelli Jones 1933-2024 headshot

Parnelli Jones

Getty Images

US motor sport lost one of its key stars this month. Rufus Parnell Jones, who has died aged 90, was one of America’s fastest, most versatile and best-loved racing drivers, who won in everything from sprint cars and midgets to Indycars and NASCAR, sports cars and Trans-Am and even off-road at Pikes Peak and Baja.

Parnelli, as he was universally known, broke through as a champion in sprint cars during the early 1960s. He made his Indianapolis 500 debut in 1961, then two years later scored his only Brickyard win as a driver when in an oil-seeping Ol’ Calhoun roadster he avoided a black flag to defeat Jim Clark’s rear-engined Lotus.

Further Indy victories slipped away, most notably in 1964 and ’67, for a driver Mario Andretti proclaimed as “the greatest of his era”. But out of the cockpit Jones was at least as equally influential as a team owner, claiming a pair of Indy 500 wins with Al Unser in 1970 and ’71 and double IndyCar titles with Joe Leonard in 1971 and ’72.