Parnelli Jones saluted by A.J. Foyt on 60th anniversary of his 1963 Indianapolis 500 pole
INDIANAPOLIS -- Thursday marked the 60th anniversary of a legendary moment in Indy 500 history for Parnelli Jones.
After becoming the first driver to top the 150 mph barrier in Indianapolis 500 Qualifications a year earlier, Jones won his second consecutive Indy 500 pole on May 18, 1963.
He set a track record at 151.153 mph in his famed Calhoun – an Offenhauser-powered Roadster.
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He went on to win the 1963 race by leading 167 laps, topping rookie Jim Clark by 33.84 seconds with A.J. Foyt third.
Jones was on the pole with Jim Hurtubise in the middle and Don Branson on the outside - all three drivers topped the 150-mph barrier.
One year earlier, Jones won the pole for the 1962 Indianapolis 500, and his reward was a bucket of 150 silver dollars from Phil Hedback of Bryant Heating and Cooling.
On Thursday, two of Jones’ longtime friends, A.J. Foyt and BorgWarner publicist Steve Shunck, remembered the back-to-back Indy 500 poles.
Shunck ordered a specially decorated cake from Needlers Bakery in Indianapolis and delivered it to Foyt in his team’s garage in Gasoline Alley at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Photos were taken of Foyt with the cake and sent to Jones at his home in Rolling Hills, California.
“Parnelli was always a good hard racer, a real rival,” Foyt, 88, said. “We had some great battles and we sure had fun.
“Back in 1963, it was Parnelli’s year. He had us covered on pole day and race day. When we were racing, we spent so much time together, he was a great friend. I wish he could make it back to Indianapolis. It would be nice to see him.”
Jones responded with a photo of himself wearing a white Indianapolis 500 Old Timers Club hat, representing the fact he has spent 40 years in the group whose members have to serve 20 years in an official capacity at the Indianapolis 500 before they can join.
In the photo, Jones, 89, posed next to his retro “Baby Borg” Trophy with a big smile on his face.
“The one thing that really sticks out from my 1963 Indy 500 pole was the weather,” Jones said. “It was very windy, and you had to be lucky when you went out to qualify hoping it wasn’t blowing its hardest.
“I got it right, or was lucky and it wasn’t, but it was still very windy during the run.”
What was special about that front row for the legendary Jones was the drivers that filled out the rest of the first row.
“I also remember (Jim) Hurtubise and (Don) Branson being on the front row with me, two of my old USAC Sprint Car buddies,” Jones said. “When I won the pole in 1962 breaking 150 mph (150.370 mph) for the first time I had something to shoot for and people were talking about 150 mph all month wondering if it would happen.
“In 1963 I just wanted to be on the pole again and we all (1963 front row) broke 150 mph (Jones set a track record of 151.153 mph).
“It was special to win a second straight pole, that really doesn’t happen often. I think Aggie (his car owner J. C. Agajanian) was as happier or happier than me to be there again. I’ll never forget Herk led the first lap in the Novi, but I passed him on the second lap and led over 160 laps.
“Boy it seems like a long time ago, but not 60 years ago. Those were some special and memorable times in racing.”