The Road Racing Drivers Club (RRDC) will honor racing icon Parnelli Jones at its second annual West Coast dinner prior to the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, on Thursday, April 15, 2010. The RRDC Evening with Parnelli Jones will be presented by Firestone, the tire brand that has been associated with Jones since the 1960s.
Two-time IZOD IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti is the Honorary Chairman of the dinner, and RRDC president and emcee Bobby Rahal will conduct the “inquisition” of Jones, who was named Rufus Parnell at birth until a high-school friend and classmate decided to call him “Parnelli” – a name that has stuck with him through his life and career.
He now shares a common bond with other celebrities who are instantly recognized by their first names, such as Cher, Madonna, Elvis, and even Helio and Dario.
Born in 1933, in Texarkana, Arkansas, then relocating to Torrance, California, at a young age, Jones made his mark in Dirt and Sprint Cars, winning the 1960 Midwest Sprint Car crown before moving on to racing at events such as Pikes Peak, where he won in 1963, and in series such as USAC Stock Car, which he won in 1964. He raced in his first Indy 500 in 1961, where he was named Rookie of the Year, then won the prestigious event in 1963.
As a car owner, he claimed Indy 500 victories twice with Al Unser in 1970 and ’71, and as a driver he earned the 1970 Trans-Am championship. His on-track battles with Mark Donohue are legendary. He continued to compete in off-road and Trans-Am races, then found success as a businessman, owning Firestone Tire distributorships, among other ventures.
“Parnelli’s career has spanned not only many years, but many racing series,” said Rahal. “He epitomizes the rough and rugged individual it took to win races back in the early ’60s. He was a fierce competitor and carries that fierceness into his business ventures today. We at the RRDC are proud to honor his achievements.
“We are also privileged to have Firestone support this dinner,” added Rahal. “Parnelli and Firestone have a long history together, which continues today.” The dinner’s proceeds will help support the Team USA Scholarship.
Last year’s dinner honored another racing icon, Dan Gurney, which drew fans and luminaries from all forms of motorsports, and was a huge success.
The RRDC Evening with Parnelli Jones will be held at the Hilton Hotel, 701 West Ocean Blvd, Long Beach, Calif., with cocktails at 6 p.m., and dinner at 7:15 p.m. Tickets are $150 per person and space is limited. Reservations may be made at [email protected]