Parnelli Jones Leaves Behind a Remarkable Racing Career and A Million-Dollar Wealth

By Sagar ChandPublished on: June 5, 2024 Updated on: June 13, 2024
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Parnelli Jones, a legendary figure in American motorsport, passed away on June 4, 2024, at Torrance Memorial Medical Center. He died at 90 after a battle with Parkinson’s disease in his longtime home of Torrance, California.

Known for his fearless driving and strategic prowess, Jones’s influence on motorsports is both significant and enduring.

Parnelli Jones with his first three NASCAR Cup races in 1956.
Jones in June 1956. 

Born Rufus Parnell Jones on August 12, 1933, in Texarkana, Arkansas, he moved with his family to California when he was just seven. He was a bold spirit from the start, once trading his beloved horse for his first hot rod—a decision that set the course of his life towards the racetrack.

Jones later kicked off his career with the help of his friend, Billy Calder, who introduced him to the local racing scene at Carrell Speedway in Gardena. He was just 17 at the time.

Quickly making a name for himself, Parnelli dominated the dirt tracks of the American West throughout the 1950s. He reached the pinnacle of his career in 1963 with a victorious run at the Indianapolis 500, driving the legendary ‘Ol’ Calhoun’ to a win that would make history.

He also took to NASCAR, where he thrived amid the complexities of stock car racing. During his early career, he racked up 15 victories in the NASCAR Pacific Coast Late Model Series. He once shared with NBC Sports, “One thing about a stock car is its handling. It’s a lot tougher to drive, but I adapted well to different kinds of racing. It seemed like once I got in the car, it wasn’t the race so much as it was the car itself. I enjoyed my short span in NASCAR.”

Even after hanging up his racing gloves, Jones didn’t stray far from the track. He co-founded Vel’s Parnelli Jones Racing, leading the team to glory at the Indianapolis 500 in 1970 and 1971 with Al Unser Sr. as the driver.

However, his tenure as a business owner was not without its challenges. In the early 1990s, the organization, which boasted 94 retail outlets across six states, faced serious legal troubles. Accused by the Bureau of Automotive Repair of violating the Automotive Repair Act, the company settled with California’s Department of Consumer Affairs for $800,000 in 1995. The allegations suggested employees had sold unnecessary services and charged for unrendered work.

Late racer Parnelli Jones.
Parnelli in his 20s.

Despite the challenges off the track, his contributions to motorsport were undeniable. He was also honored with inductions into several halls of fame, including the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame.

He is survived by his wife, Judy, and their children, who not only inherit his estimated $2 million net worth but also the rich legacy of a racing legend.

About Author: Sagar Chand

Sagar Chand is a seasoned content writer since 2016, who has crafted a diverse array of articles spanning entertainment, sports, and beyond. With a rich background in creating engaging content, Sagar excels in bringing unique perspectives to a wide audience. His expertise not only enriches his writings but also keeps his readers coming back for more insightful and dynamic narratives.