Parnelli Jones

The Indianapolis 500 Mile Race is heralded as “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” Seeing it through the eyes of a racing legend provides an entirely new perspective and one that makers of the film “Behind the Indianapolis 500 with Parnelli Jones” believe will resonate with fans everywhere.

The film delves into the enduring relationship Jones has enjoyed with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for more than five decades. Jones, along with executive producers Annie and Mike Walker and Travis Knox, held an exclusive screening of the film’s “first rough cut” last week at Auto Club Speedway. Guests at the screening included a pair of Jones’ peers and friends, Mario Andretti and Johnny Rutherford.

Never one to crave the spotlight, Jones thought “there was a little too much me” in the rough cut that intertwines his days as a driver and car owner with insights from his annual pilgrimage to IMS each May. Jones’ saga with the Indy 500 began with his rookie season in 1961, included his dominant 1963 “500” victory, the near win in the 1967 Andy Granatelli turbine car and back-to-back triumphs as owner of Al Unser’s car in 1970-71.

“It brought back a lot of memories and stuff,” Jones said. “I think the whole picture is probably good for racing, anyway. I think people that see it could relate to where we come from. People don’t usually get to see how it all happens.”

Annie Walker has known Jones for more than 30 years. As she began developing the project of an Indianapolis 500 film several years ago, she said, “I started thinking how interesting it would be to see it through the eyes of a winner. Parnelli seemed like the perfect fit for that.

“Parnelli always seemed like the one that a lot of these guys revered more than others. He was breaking records, he was kind of fearless, but he also made it through without any major accidents, he was respected by all of his peers. And as he moved on into business, he became an incredibly successful businessman and was able to carry that success on as an owner. So many things that started to piece together for me why people see him as this icon.”

Andretti, Bobby Unser and Rick Mears – all fellow Indy 500 winners themselves – are among the many motorsports personalities who spoke to filmmakers about Jones’ legacy and the aura of the Indianapolis 500. Current plans call for a one-hour finished product that will be pitched to television networks for broadcast leading up to the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 next May.

“I’m hoping it will give a boost to the 100th and give people a little bit more awareness about how cool the speedway is and how cool the ‘500’ is and how much history is there,” Walker said.

Knox, the fellow executive producer, learned firsthand why Jones was the right choice for the project when the two flew together from Los Angeles to Indianapolis for this year’s “500.”

“At LAX, he was just the guy sitting next to me on the plane who could’ve been my dad,” Knox said. “But the minute we got off in Indianapolis, he was surrounded by people. In that city and in this sport, he is beloved.”