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Legendary Parnelli Celebrates 87th Birthday by Waving Virtual Green Flag at Indy

Practice for the 104th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge opened in a unique way Wednesday, Aug. 12 when 1963 winner Parnelli Jones, the oldest living winner, waved the green flag from his home in Rolling Hills, California.

“The track is now open for practice,” Jones said in a video.

The waving was significant for another reason: Today is Jones’ 87th birthday.

“It was an honor to wave the green flag to start practice for the 104th Indianapolis 500 from my home in California,” Jones said. “I never imagined the Indy 500 would be held in August. In the 1960s, I spent lots of time turning laps and putting in miles at the track (IMS) in August, but it was testing tires for Firestone, not racing.

“Running fast laps at Indy anytime of the year was fun for me. From what I've seen on TV and in photos, Roger (Penske) and everyone involved have done a great job making the whole track look so nice and updated.

“I appreciate Indianapolis Motor Speedway thinking of me on the 87th birthday and including me in their Opening Day activities. I hope they have a safe race this year and the competition is as good as it's been past few years – what fun races to watch!”

Jones is one of 31 living “500” winners. The others: A.J. Foyt (1961, 1964, 1967, 1977), Bobby Unser (1968, 1975, 1981), Mario Andretti (1969), Al Unser (1970, 1971, 1978, 1987), Gordon Johncock (1973, 1982), Johnny Rutherford (1974, 1976, 1980), Rick Mears (1979, 1984, 1988, 1991), Tom Sneva (1983), Danny Sullivan (1985), Bobby Rahal (1986), Emerson Fittipaldi (1989, 1993), Arie Luyendyk (1990, 1997), Al Unser Jr. (1992, 1994), Jacques Villeneuve (1995), Buddy Lazier (1996), Eddie Cheever Jr. (1998), Kenny Brack (1999), Juan Pablo Montoya (2002, 2015), Helio Castroneves (2001, 2002, 2009), Gil de Ferran (2003), Buddy Rice (2004), Sam Hornish Jr. (2006), Dario Franchitti (2007, 2010, 2012), Scott Dixon (2008), Tony Kanaan (2013), Ryan Hunter-Reay (2014), Alexander Rossi (2016), Takuma Sato (2017), Will Power (2018) and Simon Pagenaud (2019).

Eight of those drivers began practicing Wednesday, the most former winners in a “500” field since there were a record 10 in 1992.

Today’s practice is scheduled to run until 5:30 p.m., with live coverage on INDYCAR Pass on NBC Sports Gold.

 

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