Parnelli Jones to receive RRDC honors at LBGP
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. 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, Ark., then relocating to Torrance, Calif., 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 7 p.m., and dinner at 8 p.m. Tickets are $150 per person and space is limited. Reservations may be made at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the RRDC:
The Road Racing Drivers Club was formed in 1952 as a way to give champion drivers a say in their sport, particularly in the areas of safety, and has evolved to serve the future of road racing by mentoring new drivers on both amateur and professional levels. The Club now has more than 150 active members, including leading industry professionals, race officials and motorsports journalists, in addition to prominent racing names.
President Bobby Rahal is the 1986 Indy 500 winner and is co-owner, with David Letterman, of the 2004 Indianapolis 500 winning Rahal Letterman Racing team. Six-time SCCA National champion John Fergus is the Club's Vice President/Treasurer, and five-time SCCA National champion Tom Davey is the Secretary.
In addition to RRDC members lending their expertise to up-and-coming drivers, the Club presents three annual awards: the Phil Hill Award for rendering outstanding service to road racing; the Mark Donohue Award for personal spirit and performance at the SCCA National Championship Runoffs; and the Bob Akin Award for speed with style, passion, sportsmanship and contribution to motorsports.
The RRDC also supports the Team USA Scholarship, which has been assisting young Americans in the early stages of their careers since 1990.
Membership in the RRDC is by invitation only. Additional information on the organization may be found at www.rrdc.org .