Team Leader Brings Nostalgia To The Indy 500

Team Leader is turning heads every time they push the #40 dayglow orange Dallara-Honda through Gasoline Alley at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The car is painted to look like the STP Granatelli turbine that Parnelli Jones almost drove to victory 40 years ago this month. Coincidentally, Parnelli?s son, P.J. Jones is the driver. Co-owner Kent Baker of Team Leader/Dollander Racing spoke about the reasoning of painted it like the turbine. Baker, “Forty years ago, in 1967, Parnelli Jones drove the turbine car, the Andy Granatelli turbine car, and the history, the car was number 40, and this is the 40th anniversary of that car, and we are doing a throwback, historic effort based on the livery of that car. We’re number 40. The number is in a black meatball with white letters. It has a very historic appearance, and we’re proud to have Parnelli’s son PJ driving the car. We’ve got some exciting marketing things planned for the program, and I think, based on the initial crowd reaction, I think the colors are going to be a crowd favorite.”

Parnelli did speak to Baker earlier about the ’67 race and Baker spoke about some of the particulars of the current team, Baker said, “I did talk a bit to Parnelli about the 1967 race, and when the green flag dropped, he literally drove around the field in Turn 1, on the outside. I was thinking about that strategy, and I asked him to tell his son not to do that this race.” (About being competitive this month:) “We’ve got three go-fast guys. We’ve got PJ, and we’ve also got a braintrust of Bruce Ashmore and Matt Staisiack, who we lovingly refer to as Mr. Peabody and Sherman. They’ve been back there pouring over laptops for the last 24 hours, and I think we’re pretty lucky to have them. We’ve got Chris Paulsen as the team coordinator, whose got a long history at the track, and three great sponsors, Diversified Partners out of Arizona, an architectural firm who does business with them, KDRA, and a young Internet company called, which I think you’re going to hear a lot more about in the near future.” (About continued involvement in the IndyCar Series):

Baker is enthusiastic about running in the IRL and the ‘500’, “I love racing, and I like the IRL. I’m good friends with Tony George. It’s a privilege to help him create such a large event. I think the IRL statistics show that the sport’s growing at about 9 percent a year, which is greater than any other sport in the United States. The IRL has 38 million consumers and growing, so I think it’s a good opportunity.”

PJ Jones speaking about the historic livery, “I think it’s awesome. I think the spotters will like it because they’re going to be able to see it, and all the fans. It’s really neat. It came out really nice, a lot better than I thought. When Kent and Ken Dollander came up with this idea and I thought: ‘Wow, how can you duplicate that with a new car vs. the old car? Even the look, is it going to come off really well?’ But it did. The car’s gorgeous.” (About being competitive as an Indy-only team): “It’s difficult. I think it would be a lot easier if we could get earlier starts. Every year we try to run the first week, and every year we get to try to run the last week, and I think if we could do that, it would be a lot more beneficial. Obviously, it’s all about funding. I think we can be competitive. I think it’s a lot easier to be competitive, equipment-wise, because now just about everybody’s got a Dallara, just about everybody’s got a Honda. And now, at least it’s in our own hands. It’s not like there’s a lot of equipment we can’t get. And I’ve got to go out there and learn as much as possible in a quick time and get more comfortable again. It’s not easy. You’ve got guys out here that you’re competing against that do this every week. And that’s a big difference.”

In fact Parnelli the 1963 ‘500’ winner will take the #40 Dallara-Honda out Saturday morning (May 19th) of third day qualifying, Jones spoke earlier about the team, “This is very exciting to see them think about the turbine car and thinking back 40 years ago. Somebody walked by the garage the other day, and I heard them say, ‘What the hell is the turbine car doing here?’ All they could see in that garage was the color and that number on there. But certainly, it stands out, and they did a great job putting it together.” (About disappointing finish in 1967): “It was certainly a disappointment, not only not being able to go in the race, but I didn’t know the car was going to be that great. Hopefully this car will be that great. I have two sons and from the day they were born, I think the first toy that they got was a race car. Some of my friends said they were going drive a race car, like their father. So, they’ve always thought of being an Indianapolis winner. They wanted to come to Indianapolis and win. I know PJ has had a great feeling for the Speedway as well as I have. I love this place, and I think it’s been a great part of my career, and I think PJ feels a great warmth for the Speedway itself.” (About breaking 150-mph barrier): “A couple of guys had come really close, including my good friend Jim Hurtubise, the year before, or a couple of years before. Everybody was saying that that was the ultimate, 150 mph. To be the first to do that, certainly put a great mark on my career, and I still have a couple of the silver dollars. They gave me 150 silver dollars and dumped them into my helmet at that time, and I still have a few of them left. It was great memories, and it’s been a great part of my resume, so to speak. Even though it doesn’t seem all that fast by today’s speeds, I can tell you, back then, I was giving it all I had.”

The #40 Team Leader entry will attempt to qualify Saturday May 19, as the third day of qualifying continues for the 91st running of the Indianapolis 500.

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