Parnelli Lap Is Big Talk
By Rick Johnson-Indianapolis Times, May 12, 1963
Rufus Parnelli Jones (Rick Johnson Photo)
There are a lot of human-interest stories at the Speedway whenever an official or unofficial record is set.
One of them came yesterday in a remote corner of the garage area when several of the racing crowd gathered for a bull session.
As usual, Eddie Sachs was one of the more prominent speakers.
“That Parnelli…he didn’t even have the decency to run 151 miles an hour, or some such speed. No, he had to go and run a fantastic 152 miles an hour…something no one ever heard of!”
Sachs shook his head. “I had called my mechanic (Wally Meskowski) from town and said, ‘Wally, want me to come out and run a few laps?’
“Wally was kinda sour and said, ‘Well, it’s pretty late in the day to do much running’.”
Then Meskowski told Sachs about Jones.
“By the time I got here the track had closed,” Sachs said. “That smark-aleck Parnelli…” He laughed. “You know, I’m beginning to believe that 16 and 18-inch wheels just aren’t safe anymore.” (Jones broke the record in a car shoed in the controversial 15-inch Firestone tires.)
Parnelli's rig (IMS Photo)
At that moment in the bull session, Jones and his mechanic, John Pouelsen, walked into the garage.
The crowd repeated most of Sachs’ dialogue to Parnelli, who laughed good-naturedly.
Parnelli said, “Sachsie…I was sure I could do it. I knew I had to. I’ve told a lot of guys around here that the 15-inch tires was the going set-up.”
“I’ve talked off a lot about it, and I don’t generally do that, but I got a little peeved at some of the needles some of the Ford-Lotus guys tossed at me.”
(The Lotus Powered by Ford cars have been running on 15-inch tires for all practice sessions. Parnelli switched his Offenhauser…the Agajanian Willard Battery Spl. No. 98…to the 15-inch tires for yesterday’s run.)
The Lotus-Powered-By-Ford Gang
Dan Gurney (IMS Photo)
Jim Clark (IMS Photo)
Clark (Rick Johnson Photo)
Parnelli stopped a moment. Then continued, “The other day after (Dan) Gurney turned in those 149 mph laps, one of the Ford guys came by our garage and said, ‘Boy, it’s so easy…how are you doing’?”
Gurney (Rick Johnson Photo)
Parnelli laughed and said, “Before I could catch myself I told him ‘Boy, you’d better get that car running a little better or I’ll blow you off’.”
Jones admitted that at the time he bragged he wasn’t so sure he could whip Gurney by the watch, but he said, “I guess today gave them something to shoot at, and I’ve still got some more left.”
As a courtesy, the Speedway gave Parnelli Badge No. 150, since last year he was the first person to break 150 mph by the clock.
Coincidentally, his mechanic has Badge No. 152. At the moment, Parnelli would like to swap with the holder of Badge No. 154.
That’s the speed he’s shooting for.