One of the Indianapolis 500’s all-time badasses was in a delightful mood on the 60th anniversary of his pole-winning run in 1963. Parnelli Jones would take his second consecutive Indy 500 pole — lapping the Speedway at an average of 151.153mph — on May 18, 1963, which also ranked as a new track record. He’d turn that pole into a win, making a statement for the front-engine roadsters at the onset of the rear-engine chassis revolution at the Brickyard.
“The one thing that really sticks out from my 1963 Indy 500 pole was the weather,” Jones told RACER from his Southern California home. “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. I also remember (Jim) Hurtubise and (Don) Branson being on the front row with me, two of my old USAC Sprint Car buddies.
“When I won the pole in 1962 breaking 150mph (150.370mph) for the first time, I had something to shoot for and people were talking about 150mph 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 150mph. 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.”
Jones’ old friend A.J. Foyt accepted a celebratory cake on behalf of 89-year-old Parnelli (pictured, top), which the A.J. Foyt Racing team devoured during lunch.
“Parnelli was always a good hard racer, a real rival,” the four-time Indy 500 winner said. “We had some great battles and we sure had fun. 1963 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.”