SI Vault
Kenneth Rudeen
June 10, 1963
Parnelli Jones, racing a traditional Offenhauser, won the fastest '500' ever, with Scotland's Jimmy Clark, in a Lotus-Ford, closing right behind him. As always at Indianapolis, the difference between the two was a matter of seconds—and some of the most precious seconds were won and lost during pit stops, where tires are changed and tanks replenished. To pinpoint the drama last week as the Jones and Clark crews worked feverishly to get their cars out, Sports Illustrated placed a clock in the camera of Photographer Richard Meek. Jones (opposite page) was first in and out of the pits as he was (next page) on the track
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June 10, 1963

Two Against The Clock At Indy

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Jimmy Clark said: "I had enough rubber and petrol to go as fast as before, but I was getting sideways on Parnelli Jones's oil. I thought I'd try to keep my car on the island. I would much rather be second than dead."

But Chapman and Clark sportingly gave Parnelli congratulatory handshakes for his victory. Chapman's final words were generous. "I must admit," he said, "that I would have been very sorry to see Parnelli Jones black-flagged."

The responsibility for deciding whether or not to use the black flag, which requires a driver to come into the pits for consultation, lay with Chief Steward Fengler. He later explained why he had permitted Parnelli to finish.

"I could see that oil was spewing from Parnelli's car and I wanted to know the reason. I told the starter to get the black flag ready. I sent for Agajanian and Pouelsen. Pouelsen told me there was nothing the matter with the car's engine; the oil was coming from the tank on the outside of the car. I went close to the track to observe. In my opinion, the oil had stopped spewing. I could see that the car's tire treads were dry, so obviously no oil was spraying directly onto them.

"There is no question that the car put a certain amount of oil on the track. So did other cars in one degree or another. It is part of the race; it always happens. If I had thought Parnelli was creating hazardous conditions, I would have had him black-flagged."

Johnny Pouelsen, understandably, was in complete agreement. "There is oil on the track wherever we race," he said. "Parnelli's tank had 21 quarts of oil in it when he started and still had 12 quarts when he finished. He could hardly have been coating the track with oil."

The oil was coming from a tiny 3/8-inch crack at the forward bolt that helps to anchor Parnelli's streamlined, tear-shaped outboard tank to his car. When the oil spray struck the car's fiery-hot exhaust pipe it created plumes of smoke. "When I saw that you were smoking," Clark told Parnelli with a grin on his boyish face and a twinkle in his eye, "I thought, 'Aha! You won't last until the end now.' "

It would have been a shame if he had not—and a shame, too, if Fengler had flagged him off. Unquestionably, Fengler was on a very hot spot. He presumably would have black-flagged the Jones car if it had been out of serious contention. Fengler is an ex-racing driver, however, knowing better than most how greatly the Indy men strive to win this loftiest of American racing prizes, and his every impulse must have been to give the leader the widest latitude.

By calling Parnelli in, Fengler would have summarily handed the race to Clark. There was glory enough for the little Grand Prix driver and the Lotus-Fords. The fact that would be remembered after the oil squabble had dimmed was that it took the most strenuous exertions of the most nearly perfect "500" driver of modern times—Rufus Parnell Jones—to defeat them.

If there was a matter for regret, it was that conditions did not permit Clark to continue his remarkable late-race pursuit of Parnelli and perhaps actually race wheel to wheel with him. Parnelli said he could not see his pit signals very well and did not realize how quickly Clark's yellow-striped green bullet was overtaking him. Logic says Parnelli would have won in mano a mano combat; he had invariably been faster than Clark in practice. Still, with his blood up, racing a handy car that made the heavier Offenhausers look like tractors in the turns, thumping some of the very fastest Offies despite their ability to outdrag him leaving the turns, Clark would have made the finish unforgettably close.

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