Parnelli Jones is one of the most recognizable names in auto racing and has won nearly every major auto race event in the United States including the Indianapolis 500.
Jones' career began in 1952 when he competed in a stock car event at small dirt track in California. For several years thereafter, he drove all types of race cars, and on many occasions raced four and five times a week throughout the nation. Midgets, sprint cars or stock cars, if it had wheels, Parnelli won with it. Following many successes in the dusty, dangerous game of short track racing including three consecutive Sprint Car Championships, Parnelli was ready to move up to the highest level of competition.
In 1960, Jones competed in his first Indy car race at the famous one-mile paved oval in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. A year later he raced at Indianapolis for the first time where Parnelli's performance was so impressive he was voted Co-Rookie of the Year.
Parnelli won the pole position at Indianapolis in 1962 becoming the first driver ever to qualify over 150 mph, setting a mark of 151.153 mph for his four lap-qualifying run. He repeated the feat in 1963 and in addition proceeded to dominate the race, winning the "500" by comfortable margin. In Parnelli's final year at the Brickyard he drove the controversial STP Turbine car and on the way to a seemingly effortless victory, his car broke only three laps from the finish. Jones, in a span of seven years at Indy led a total of 492 laps, almost twice that of any other driver during that period and won a total of six other Indy car races in his brief career.
When Jones retired from open cockpit racing, he devoted his versatile driving talent to winning the SCCA Trans Am Series in a Mustang prepared for Ford Motor Company by Bud Moore. He also won the USAC Stock Car Championship and twice won the famous Pike Peak Hill Climb in a Mercury prepared by Bill Stroppe. He and Stroppe later turned to off-road racing and won both the rugged Baja 500 and Baja 1000 races twice in a Ford Bronco; a truly amazing feat in the era of unsophisticated off road vehicles.
Jones, along with long time partner the late Vel Miletich in 1967 established one of the most successful race teams in the history of the sport, hiring top guns such as Al Unser, Mario Andretti and Joe Leonard. The Vel's Parnelli Jones Racing Team with Al Unser, won the Indy 500 in 1970 and 1971 in addition to winning three consecutive national championships beginning in 1970. Jones success as a driver carried over as the team won a total of 53 Indy Car races, including seven 500 mile race victories and were known throughout the sport as being well prepared, innovative and versatile. The team competed in every type of race imaginable, from the rigorous off-road races of Baja to the elite, world-class Formula One events around the globe.
Parnelli continued to compete in special events such as celebrity races where he won at Watkins Glen and Long Beach in specially prepared Toyotas driving against his peers and several contemporaries. Among his various charities are the City of Hope and Daniel Freemen Hospital, while hobbies include golf, snow and water sports.