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Parnelli Savors Return to Speedway to See Friends, Famous Cars

Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge legend Parnelli Jones paid a special visit to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Thursday afternoon, May 20.

Jones took in practice for the Indianapolis 500 from Victory Podium and from inside the famed Pagoda. Later, he was on pit lane and in Gasoline Alley to watch the star athletes of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and their teams hard at work preparing for the Sunday, May 30 race.

It was a familiar sight for Jones, 87, who became a legend at IMS when he set the 150-mph record in qualifying in 1962 and won the Indianapolis 500 as a driver in 1963. He also was the winning car owner in the “500” in 1970 and 1971 with driver Al Unser.

Jones also paid a visit to several of his friends and rivals from his driving days, including A.J. Foyt, Johnny Rutherford, Rick Mears and Roger Penske. He was also stopped by to see modern stars of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES such as Ryan Hunter-Reay and Dario Franchitti.

“Unbelievable,” Jones said of his day.

He ended his day at the track with his family as they toured the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, where he saw his winning car from 1963, as well as the Johnny Lightning Special Jones owned and Al Unser drove to victory in 1970-71 that is on the Museum floor.

Jones took a special trip to the basement of the Museum, where several Indy 500 cars he owned in the 1970s are housed.

“I think there’s a lot of memories here for him and really our whole family,” said his son, PJ Jones. “Going back and looking at the roadsters, I’m sure he has a lot of flashbacks of being here and winning.

“Our family, we’ve got so many memories here, and I think we really miss it. I know my dad does. Every May he’d come here, play a lot of golf when he wasn’t involved and see his buddies and have a good time.

“You could see that smile on his face, and it’s pretty nice.”

Jones stopped by the Racing Capital of the World before heading to the Mecum Auto Auction at the Indiana State Fairgrounds this weekend, where “The Personal Collection of Parnelli Jones” will be up for auction. The main attraction is the 1969 Ford Bronco “Big Oly” that Jones drove to Baja 1000 wins in 1971-72. Mecum Auto Auctions from the Fairgrounds can be seen live on NBCSN.

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