PJ Jones to drive for injured J. Lazier starting at Indy 500 INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, April 29, 2002 -- Open-wheel veteran PJ Jones, son of 1963 Indianapolis 500 winner Parnelli Jones, joined Team Menard on April 29 as an interim replacement for ...
PJ Jones to drive for injured J. Lazier starting at Indy 500
INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, April 29, 2002 -- Open-wheel veteran PJ Jones, son of 1963 Indianapolis 500 winner Parnelli Jones, joined Team Menard on April 29 as an interim replacement for injured driver Jaques Lazier in the Indy Racing League, starting with the Indianapolis 500.
Jones, from Torrance, Calif., will attempt to make his first Indy 500 start in the No. 2 Menards/Johns Manville Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone at Indy as a teammate to fellow California native Robby Gordon, who will drive the No. 31 Menards/Childress/Cingular Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone. Jones replaces Lazier, who suffered a fractured vertebra in an accident during the Firestone Indy 225 on April 21 at Nazareth Speedway.
"To have the opportunity to jump into this seat for my first run at the Speedway is fantastic," said Jones, 33. "But you do hate to take it at someone's expense. I feel for Jaques; he's one of the good guys, and he certainly deserved to be here in this car. Right now, I'm just going to keep the seat warm for him and hopefully carry the torch while he's out.
"This team has really come alive heading into Indy. I know this car is a rocket ship."
Jones, a veteran of 59 CART starts, will not be required to take a rookie test to participate in the Indianapolis 500 due to his high-speed oval experience in CART. He also has the advantage of relying on his father for advice about the Speedway.
"The Indy 500 has always been a part of our family; I grew up here on 16th Street," Jones said. "We've had the same room at the Speedway motel forever, and I honestly can't remember a May where I haven't been here. It's going to be quite a rush to finally suit up for practice and show what I can do. I want to thank John Menard for giving me this opportunity. I plan on making the most of it."
A long list of drivers sought the coveted Menards seat, but veteran team owner Menard chose Jones for many reasons, including his friendship with Gordon and their ability to work together.
"I've known PJ for a long time, and I did a lot of homework on this selection," Menard said. "Not only did everyone I called in the business for recommendations say PJ was up to the task, I noticed that he's never truly had a shot in really good equipment. And the few times he has had the tools, he's been spectacular.
"I've also noticed that the last two years in the Indy 500 we've had a rookie win. So now Team Menard has a veteran in Robby and a hungry rookie with a family history of greatness at this track. On top of that, they're good friends. Pretty good combination, I'd say."
Jones started racing midgets and sprint cars in California in the late 1980s. Dan Gurney hired Jones to race in the IMSA GTP series in 1992, and Jones won five races in two seasons, including an overall victory in the Rolex 24 in 1993 at Daytona.
After his IMSA stint, Jones moved to stock car racing in 1994, winning twice in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. He returned to Gurney's All-American Racers team in 1996 to drive in CART, staying there until 1999. Jones joined Patrick Racing in 1999, earning a career-best second-place finish at Nazareth Speedway.
Since 1999, Jones has raced in the NASCAR Busch Series and in selected USAC Silver Crown Series events. He finished fourth in the Weld Racing Silver Crown feature at the Copper World Indy 200 in March at Phoenix International Raceway.