Ford Wins 1970 Trans-Am Championship In Boss 302 With Bud Moore, Parnelli Jones And George Follmer
Parnelli Jones has made a living out of winning.
He's considered by many to be one of the all-time greats, having won races and championships in nearly every discipline of racing he's entered. He won the Indianapolis 500 in 1963, set a Pike's Peak Hill Climb record in a Mercury Marauder, and won seven races on his way to the 1964 USAC Championship. But Jones is probably most well-known for his work in Mustangs, the Trans-Am championship winning BOSS 302, to be exact.
“I learned to race in old jalopies and on the ovals and short tracks,” said Jones of his racing start. “Most of my career had been on ovals, but it seemed like when I went to road racing it was like a duck to water, it just came very natural for me.
“I know that a straight line straightens out the esses, so to speak, and I was fortunate to do well right off the bat in road racing and when you do well in any type of racing it makes you like it that much more,” continued Jones. “In road racing you have to do a little bit of everything, you have to do shifting, braking, clutching and concentrate while driving with one hand part of the time.”
Jones teamed with George Follmer for a two-headed attack on the 1969 Trans-Am title in their Bud Moore prepared BOSS 302s. The tightly contested series featured many of the era's quickest drivers piloting thunderous American muscle cars around North America's most challenging road courses. The Boss' stiffest competition came from Mark Donohue and his Penske prepared Camaro, but Jones and Follmer felt more than up to the task. The pair took three wins on the season at Michigan International Speedway (Jones), Bridgehampton (Follmer) and Brainerd (Jones). Unfortunately though, Penske's entries took advantage of some tire problems on the Ford side and came away with the title.
For 1970, Moore returned for another shot at the Trans-Am Championship, again with Jones and Follmer behind the wheel. For this new season, the team's BOSS 302s had been given a new look with striking school bus yellow paint and the distinctive 'hockey stick stripes' that had shown up on the 1970 BOSS 302 road cars. That year also saw an increase in the level of competition Jones and Follmer would have to deal with as Penske (and Mark Donohue) moved over to run AMC Javelins, Jim Hall ran the Camaro contingent, and Dan Gurney started his own team with Plymouth Barracudas. Despite an even tougher field, Jones and Follmer shined throughout.
“Winning the championship in 1970 was really a blessing because we should have won in 1969. We actually won quite a few races and it was really close, but we had a little bit of a tire problem toward the end of the year,” said Jones. “Bud Moore, driving for him, he had the kind of desire that a race driver has. When he went to the race track he’d give it his utmost and you could just see the desire he had to win, and obviously that pays off back in the shop as well as at the race track.”
The season kicked off on April 19th at Laguna Seca in Monterrey, California and it couldn't have gone much better for the pair in the yellow BOSS 302s. They were the fastest cars on track and Jones drove away from the pack, lapping every driver except for Donohue's AMX before taking a dominating win. Due to the fact that most of the Boss' competitors were having teething problems with new body-styles or all new cars, Jones and Follmer saw a significant advantage over the competition.
The second round of the championship was set to take place in Dallas, Texas, but was canceled due to torrential rain, but Jones didn't have to wait long to get back on track. Round three took place on May 9th at the picturesque Lime Rock Park, where he again jumped out to an early lead and was able to hold it all the way to the checkered flag.
“He loved driving the road races. I’d have to put him among the best,” said Moore of Jones’ prowess for turning right and left. “The only other driver I know that could sit down in the car and run as good was David Pearson, but Parnelli loved those road courses. He knew how to get around. He really knew how to shift the gears and brake.”
Another key to the BOSS 302's success in 1970 was the fantastic work done on pit stops by Moore's crew. At Lime Rock Park, the quick work done in the pits ensured that Jones finished first, even after facing some late mechanical woes.
Next up was Bryar Motorsports Park in Loudon, New Hampshire, where Follmer drove to the win while the competition fell by the wayside, including his teammate. Jones rebounded in a big way at the championship's next round at Mid-Ohio, however, as he and Follmer stormed ahead of the field and battled each other at times en route to an easy 1-2 finish.
“We always went to the race track on Wednesday or Thursday before a Sunday race and got there maybe a day before we could get on the track because of airplane reservations,” said Jones. “Eventually, we would take the rental cars we were in and sort of hot lap the tracks a little bit and learn the courses as well and talked about them. That helped with gear ratios and stuff like that.”
Round six at Bridgehampton marked the first event of the year not won by either Jones or Follmer, but both finished on the podium, with Follmer in second and Jones in third. Road America's event would mark the only time over the course of the season that neither BOSS finished on the Podium. Third and fourth place finishes for Follmer and Jones at Watkins Glen shrank the team's championship lead even further.
With Penske's Javelins picking up steam in the second half of the season, the Moore BOSS 302s needed some strong finishes to secure the title, and they did just that. With just two rounds remaining, Jones was determined to win the title and bring the Trans-Am Championship to Ford. He returned to dominating fashion at the September 20th race in Kent, Washington, which was enough to clinch the title and give Ford the 1970 SCCA Trans-Am championship.