This story first appeared in the November 2009 issue of Sprint Car & Midget Magazine.
This month, Racer On Racer encompasses two legendary names in the open-wheel ranks who succeeded in making it to yesteryear’s pinnacle of success: Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Specifically, 1963 Indy 500 champion Parnelli Jones traces his days with friend and fellow Brickyard pilot, Jim Hurtubise.
Jones competed in the numerous rings throughout the country in various venues and sanctions. He won five California Racing Association (CRA) features and amassed 25 wins each in United States Auto Club (USAC) sprint car and midget action.
His USAC sprint car performances resulted in a 1960 Midwest championship and successive, undivided, national championships in 1961 and 1962.
He went on to be crowned Indy’s co-Rookie of the Year in 1961 with Bobby Marshman before landing his very own “sip of the milk” performance in 1963.
Jones was inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame (NSCHoF) in 1991.
Like Jones, Hurtubise also traveled the back roads to some of the grittiest joints the USAC and the International Motor Contest Ass’n (IMCA) could serve up.
He garnered 18 USAC sprint car wins during his career and competed at Indianapolis 10 times, taking Rookie of the Year honors in 1960 and marking a career best finish of 13th in 1962.
The racing world lost Hurtubise in 1989, before his NSCHoF enshrinement in 1993.
“I first met Jim in CRA when we were both kinda breaking into sprint cars,” said Jones. “Of course, myself coming out of jalopies, and I guess he’d run some cars back east in North Tonawanda, N.Y. But, he showed up and he had, what I’d call it, a doggie lookin’ sprint car. (laughs) It looked like something that was thrown together; however, ya know, he’d start to make it look good, and eventually became real competitive and won a race.
“Of course, about that time, I had switched to the Fike Plumbing car, so we had some good battles between the two of us, and then, anyway, built a great relationship. Of course, with that Jim went back to IMCA before I did. He went back a year – I think – ahead of me. In 1959 he talked me into going back and running the IMCA as well … which I did. We had a great time that year. I mean, I was riding with him in this station wagon that he’d built that was a Pontiac station wagon … it had a bed in the back. And we put our equipment underneath and our clothes and stuff. You could sleep and everything, and one person could drive and everything else. ‘Cause a lot of the races in IMCA you might run would be three or four hundred miles away for the next race on the next day.
“Without gray tape and all the other things we didn’t have in those days, we used to stop by a lake and go for a swim. And we’d take bailing wire and wire some beans and corn and stuff to the exhaust manifold, heat it up, and that was our meal. Not everyday like that! But, I mean, in a lot of cases that was the case. And we traveled together that whole summer with Jim and his dog Prince and I.
“And then later, we went to the big weekend, the week of St. Paul, Minn., where they had the big fair. And we were there for about a week on sprint cars as well. And I can remember him…they used to pay us off most of the time in cash. And Jim, he’d stuff it in the headliner of this Pontiac, and under the seat in a sack, yeah. I swear that when he got rid of that car, it still probably had money in it!
“But anyway, we went up to St. Paul. We were staying at a person’s house. And he went down to wire Janie, his wife, some money. And they had a platform there with a shelf underneath it. And he took his sack of money in there, grabbed a bunch of it outta there, and wired it home to Janie. And then he left. And then he came back to where we were staying and all of a sudden he got real excited. He said, ‘Oh my God!’ He says, ‘I left my sack on the counter there!’ And it had a lot of money in it. He goes flyin’ back in there, ya know. And the fact that it was in an old paper sack, there it was. Nobody had touched it. Anyway, that kinda explains Jim. He was kind of a no-give-a-darn type of guy.
“I can remember one time at Salem, Indiana – this was later – running USAC. He showed up at the track and we got ready to go out to practice. He says, ‘Oh my God! Where’s my helmet?! Where’s my helmet?!’ And he’s running around looking for his helmet. And about that time, some fan comes up and says, ‘Here Jim. Here’s your helmet. You left it at Salem last weekend.’ (laughs) But that’s the kinda guy he was! He just, ya know, he was a loose character!
“I know one time, after the race we were having a beer and we went inside to have this beer and somebody wanted his phone number or something like that, or his address or something. And he’d left his wallet laying on the car. And I saw it there, ya know, and he walked away with the thing laying there. So I picked it up, put it in my pocket, and figured I’d scare the heck out of him. Anyway, all of a sudden he gets inside and it dawns on him that he left his wallet. And he always knew where they were at. But he come flying outta there and we’re laughin’ like hell. And, of course, I gave him his wallet back. But that was Jim!
“We had a great time together and built a great relationship over those years and then when we went back to USAC with the sprint cars, he built a new car. And, of course, I had a new car as well. And we really dominated in 1960, ya know, the USAC races. 1960 was our first year. And USAC had a split division. They had an Eastern division and a Midwest division. And I won the championship in 1960 in the Midwest. Foyt won the Eastern championship even though we ran a couple of races over there. But, we won, I think, in the Midwest between Jim and I … we won 10 out of the 13 races or something. Yeah, I mean something like that … that may not be exactly right. But anyway, then we come back in ‘61, which they combined the two (Eastern and Midwestern Divisions) and I was fortunate to win that in ‘61 and ‘62. And Jim won a lot of the races too, as well, between the two of us. Ya know, I guess I was more fortunate than Jim.