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Parnelli Jones in 1961. (SPEED SPORT Archives photo)

BOURCIER: The Rapid Rise of Parnelli Jones

INDIANAPOLIS — The thing about the shooting-star rise of Parnelli Jones is how brightly it burned. To listen to those who saw this flash of light streak past is to conclude that there was no way to miss it. 

Wherever he went, he was already a stud, already somebody. It gave him clout, juice, horsepower.

Here he was in early May of 1963, at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, angry and looking for answers. Word had spread that Harlan Fengler, chief steward for the Indy 500, had decided not to grant a rookie test to Bobby Unser, whom Parnelli had befriended. At the 1962 Pikes Peak Hill Climb, Bobby gave Parnelli some tips on getting up the mountain. In return, and in view of what he’d seen Bobby do aboard sprint cars, Parnelli had lined up an Indy ride for his pal. But first there was the small matter of that rookie test, and Fengler was set to roadblock the whole thing.

This wouldn’t do. Parnelli, convinced that Bobby was ready for Indianapolis, was incensed that Fengler didn’t hold that same opinion. 


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