Editor’s note: The Pit Window celebrates its 7th birthday today. I am humbled and grateful for your continued support and readership. Thank you.
The early 60s were a time of transition at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Cars flirted with laps under one minute. Rear engine cars began to appear, and while some dismissed them as a fad, it soon became apparent that the future had arrived.The front engine roadster would have just two more years of glory, then fade into the shadows of history.
Parnelli Jones came to Indianapolis in 1961. He started fifth and finished 12th. In 1962 Jones was the first driver to turn an official lap at more than 150 miles per hour. He started on the pole and ran away fron the field until his brakes failed. Somehow, he briught the car home seventh after leading 120 laps. His pit crew used tires to stop the car on his pit stops.
In 1963, Jones broke the track qualifying record he had set the year before with a 151.2 mph lap.
Lotus brought two Ford powered rear engine cars driven by Jim Clark and Dan Gurney.They started fifth and 12th.
In the race, Jones and Jim Hurtubise battled for the lead early. Jones took control and led until his first pit stop. Clark took the lead until his only stop. Jones was again in front and stayed there until the checkered flag. He led 167 laps.
Late in the race, a crack appeared in the oil tank of Jones’ car, and oil began to qppeart on the track. Lotus boss Colin Chapman demanded that Jones be black flagged. J. C. Agajanian, Jones’ car owner, argued that the crack was above the oil level. No flag was thrown.
The oil on track cost Roger McCluskey third place as he spun with two laps to go. Clark, who finished second, decidenot to pursue Jones hard because of how slippery the track had become.
Parnelli Jones had another shot to win the500 in 1967. He drove a turbine powered car. Jones started sixth, but moved to the lead on lap one. He would lead 171 laps. On lap 196 a $6 bearing failed, and the car came to a halt in turn four. 1967 was his last 500.
A front engine roadster had just one more victory, with A. J. Foyt in1964. The mass switch to rear engine cars began in 1965, and the front engine machines disappeared completely five years later.