Parnelli Jones and RACER Editor David Malsher.
At RACER, we pride ourselves in being aware of the difference between personal favorites and true heroes. We have friends in the business, of course, and some of them are capable of heroic performances, but not all of them could fit everyone's definition of a fuel-in-the-veins race hero.
Our cover star this month, however, is the epitome of the word “hero,” because he's been there, done it, won it, run it, and is now one of the best people to ask about it. Imagine a great bare-knuckle fighter who becomes a world-beating boxer, then a brilliantly successful manager and, finally, one of the finest spokesmen for his sport. In fact, boxing has never had such a person; motorsport does. His name is Parnelli Jones and this year marks the 50th anniversary of his victory in the 1963 Indianapolis 500.
One of the most appealing qualities of Parnelli's talent was his versatility, and that's one of many reasons we pay homage also to Dan Gurney, one of the foremost road racers of his generation, and perhaps the ultimate owner-driver-engineer of any generation. Recalling those incredible few transatlantic weeks of Gurney glory in 1967 reminded us just how much a racer's remit has changed down the years.
If Jones and Gurney were everyone's heroes, Nigel Mansell was the everyman hero, the blue-collar guy who grabbed every opportunity and every car and wrung it dry. The gritty Brit could at times be too much of a chip-on-both-shoulders drama queen not to polarize opinion, but in a racecar, Mansell was amazing.
If you think he sounds too “modern” to qualify for hero status, think again. We asked current IndyCar drivers who their heroes were and most chose guys of Mansell's generation or later. Remember, too, some of those IndyCar drivers have – or will – become heroes to others.
And that's appropriate in this 21st anniversary issue of RACER. We, like they, have come of age, but we still have heroes.
Also in RACER No. 250:
• In Focus photo shoot of Dan Gurney's Eagle-Weslake
• Dario Franchitti, Parnelli Jones and Rick Mears on the Indianapolis 500
• IndyCar drivers select their personal racing heroes
• Recalling 21 of the biggest stories from RACER's first 21 years
• The American era of 500cc motorcycle grand prix racing
All this and much, much more to be found in the May issue of RACER. Make sure you don't miss out – click here to subscribe today!