Tag Archives: Indy 500

Parnelli Victory Hat to be returned, 50 years later

From the Indianapolis Star by Curt Cavin

Fifty years ago, Jones lost the hat he wore in victory lane after winning the 1963 Indianapolis 500. It flew off his head exiting Turn 2 during the celebration lap in the pace car.  Jones hasn’t seen it since.

George “Skip” Surface Jr. was 12 years old when he attended that race with his family. Their car was parked along the backstretch fence when his mother, Eunice, noticed the hat on the ground.

“Go get it,” she yelled.

Surface wasn’t paying attention to where the hat came from, but the adventure was there to have. Thrown over the interior fence by his father, he said he climbed a second fence before scurrying to the hat.

He tucked it and ran.

“Like a scared cat,” he said.

Surface considered it a souvenir similar to a foul ball grabbed at a baseball game. He didn’t know it had been on Jones’ head in victory lane because there wasn’t a video board as there is in that location today.

In fact, Surface said he didn’t know it was important to Jones at all.

“I was sure Mr. Jones could afford another hat,” he said.

The hat became Surface’s connection to auto racing, and he used it to collect autographs of several racers. Many of the names have faded over the years, but Jud Larson’s was one of them. On the front lip is the signature of Gordon Johncock, who would win the 500 in 1973 and ’82. There’s no evidence that Jones signed the hat.

Surface continues to attend the 500, and he spent a few years working on the safety patrol team. But because his hat story and Jones never came in contact, the hat stayed proudly displayed in his Johnson County home.

Things changed last week when the hat became a central part of a surprise ceremony at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. It was there that Jones received a small replica of the Borg-Warner Trophy. His likeness on the trophy’s base has him wearing the hat, and that got Jones talking about it again.

Surface read about in Friday’s Indianapolis Star and promptly responded.

“I’m the kid who stole the hat,” he said in a telephone call to the newspaper.

Before Jones was contacted, photographs of the hat Surface possesses were compared against a series of 1963 photographs collected by a friend of Jones’, Steve Shunck. Both have the same design, featuring three rows of small holes across the top. It seems to be the same one.

The hat is called a Koko-Kooler, a summer-style hat manufactured by the Mexican American Hat Co. of St. Louis. An advertisement found online describes it as “cool and light as bamboo . . . the sun hat smart enough for Broadway.”

Reached by telephone in Philadelphia, Jones initially didn’t know how to react to the discovery.

“Really?” he said. “I can’t believe it. That’s cool.”

Jones wanted to hear more.

“Did he say he was the guy who picked it up?”

Yes.

“Is he going to give it up?”

Surface said if it’s important to Jones to have the hat, he wants him to have it. Besides, it’s his.

“It’s just a memento to me,” he said. “I’d just like to shake his hand. I was always a big fan.”

That meeting figures to come in May when Jones returns to Indianapolis for the 500. The reunion will be complete when Jones dons the hat again.

Jean Alesi to drive for Newman/Haas in the 500

From Racer Magazine:

Jean Alesi has confirmed that his inaugural assault on the Indianapolis 500 will be run by legendary IndyCar team Newman/Haas Racing for the Month of May. The deal, first tipped yesterday by French magazine AUTOhebdo, was confirmed by the Sicilian himself on Thursday.

The 47-year-old ex-Formula 1 racer announced plans last September to contest the 500-mile open-wheel classic on May 27. Alesi, who started 201 grand prix but has never raced on an oval, will drive a Lotus-powered Dallara DW12 for the Illinois-based team owned by Carl Haas. Newman/Haas, which Haas founded along with the late Paul Newman, was also the team that brought F1’s Nigel Mansell to Indy in 1993, and has been a dominant force at Indy many times with the likes of Mario and Michael Andretti, although it has never won the 500.

Newman/Haas announced back in December that it wouldn’t compete in the IZOD IndyCar Series in 2012 due to lack of sponsorship, but will run Alesi on a one-off basis at Indianapolis, having assisted Lotus squad Dragon Racing so far this year.

“It’s going to be with Newman/Haas and it was signed yesterday,” Alesi told AUTOSPORT. “We have a lot of details still to decide, such as when I’ll be in the car for the first time, all those kind of things. For me, it’s fantastic because I need as much support as I can get, from the team ­– even from the fans, I will have to ask them how to drive there!

“I am extremely excited about it. I’m not worried, but I feel a big pressure on me. I will try to be as fit as possible and to be in top condition to do a good job.”

Hot Wheels / Izod Truck Jump

The HOT WHEELS track jump after the Indy 500 – looks like they could have moved the ramp even further out!