Parnelli Jones, at the wheel of the Agajanian-owned Watson roadster, during his 1961 debut race at Indianapolis. Despite being a rookie, Jones led 27 laps of the race, and might have won, were it not for engine problems.
Photo: Bob Tronolone
My first experience with a front-engine roadster was when I first went back east to race. I wound up driving a lay-down roadster that was built by Quin Epperly. Actually, in my rookie year—my first year there was 1960—I almost won the race at Milwaukee. I was leading in the Epperly, with about 13 laps to go, when the torque arm broke.
For me, really the only difference between racing a sprint car and a front-engine roadster was that the roadster was a little bigger. At that point in time, I think sprint cars definitely took more talent to drive than the bigger roadsters. However, the big advantage that the roadsters had, obviously, was handling. But I also think the driver had a big part in that. I mean I used to do all my own chassis setups in my sprint cars going back to my jalopy, modified and stock car days. I always did my own setups and, therefore, I think that helped me when I went to the Speedway. It’s not like today, where you have engineers and everything else. Of course, it’s such an aerodynamic thing today but, actually, we had a lot of good drivers who were very mechanical and knowledgeable and did a lot of their own stuff—guys like Foyt. Foyt was big at that—in fact, he still is, in a sense—as well as Hurtubise and some of the other guys.
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