Remembering Parnelli Jones

Photos via Steve Potter

The late racing legend Parnelli Jones ran in only one race at Lime Rock Park, but made the most of it, lapping the field in the 1970 Trans Am Championship.


That season continues to be widely regarded as the greatest year in Trans-Am Series, with factory teams from all of America’s “Big Four” manufacturers – Ford (Mustang), Chevrolet (Camaro), Chrysler (Dodge Challenger and Plymouth Barracuda) and American Motors (Javelin).


Lime Rock Park hosted Trans Am beginning in 1967 on the Memorial Day weekend, but that meant that several of its top stars would be racing in the Indianapolis 500. For 1970, the Lime Rock race was moved to May 9. As a result, all the stars converged on the Berkshire Hills. Jones and George Follmer competed in Bud Moore’s Mustangs; Mark Donohue and Peter Revson raced in Roger Penske’s AMC Javelins; Dan Gurney and Swede Savage raced Gurney-prepared Barracudas; hometown favorite Sam Posey in a Ray Caldwell-prepared Challenger; and Texan Jim Hall driving his own Chaparral Camaro with Ed Leslie.


Donohue won the pole with a lap of 58.8-seconds and shared the front row with Gurney, but Jones quickly raced into contention and battled Donohue for 30 of the 146 laps. Donohue then began losing oil pressure and fell back. Jones stormed to the lead and went on to win by a lap, with Leslie second in a Chaparral Camaro, followed by Posey and Hall.


Adding to the Parnelli Jones’ LRP legacy was his son P.J. Jones setting the all-time track mark with a lap of 43.112-seconds – 128.595 mph – for the 1993 IMSA GTP event. That record has stood unchallenged for 29 years.