CONSTRUCTORS: PARNELLI

Name: Parnelli

Parnelli Jones and Velco Miletich were business partners in a variety of different firms when they established Vel's Parnelli Jones Racing in 1969. The team began building cars in Torrance, California. They hired Al Unser and crew chief George Bignotti and the combination ran a four-wheel-drive Lola T150 with which Unser won several races to finish runner-up in the USAC title. The organization expanded to TransAm with Jones himself winning the title in a Ford Mustang in 1970 and they also built offroad machines with which Jones won the Baja 1000. In 1970, with backing from the Johnny Lightning toy company, Unser won the Indianapolis 500 and the USAC title in a VPJ Colt. In 1971 Unser's team-mate Joe Leonard won the title, though Unser won another Indy 500 victory. The team also ran cars in dirt racing.

In 1972 Parnelli hired Team Lotus designer Maurice Philippe and the team switched from Ford engines to Offenhausers but the result was not a great success although Leonard won three races in the mid-season. Unser and Mario Andretti failed to win. The team ran the same three drivers in 1973 and Unser and Andretti each won one race.

At the end of that year the team announced that it would build a Formula 1 car for the 1974 season. Building USAC cars was stopped and the team bought Eagles from Dan Gurney.

Parnelli entered F1 with a Cosworth-powered car at the end of 1974 with Andretti driving the Philippe-designed VPJ4. The car was developed the following year by Andretti and he scored a couple of useful placings. Parnelli also ran a successful Formula 5000 program with Viceroy-backed Lolas for Unser and Andretti, the pair finishing second and third in the championship.

In the course of 1975 Firestone took the decision to withdraw from competition - which hit the team hard. The F1 operation struggled on until the start of 1976. The F5000 operation - which was backed by Viceroy - was a success with Unser finishing second in the 1976 series.

Parnelli then decided to have another attempt at USAC racing. Designer John Barnard had joined the team at the end of 1975 but instead of working on a Grand Prix he drew the VPJ6 Indycar with Parnelli engineer Gordon Kimball. The Cosworth-powered device was quickly a success and Unser won three races and he and new team mate Danny Ongais won a couple more in 1977. At the end of the year Unser quit the team after nine seasons.

There would be continued success for Parnelli in 1978 and 1979 with Ongais winning five races and AJ Foyt buying cars for the 1979 season but after the split between CART and USAC Parnelli dropped from the scene.

Jones's son, who is known as "PJ" became an CART driver in the late 1990s.

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