After successful 1970 season with their new PJ Colt cars, Vel’s Parnelli team built two more 1971 Colts for the following season. The cars were similar to ’70 vehicles but had the larger fuel capacity needed for the 500-mile races. Car sponsored by Johnny Lightning was driven by Al Unser, who won 5 out of 6 first races of the USAC National Championship, including Indianapolis 500. The second car of Vel’s Parnelli Jones Racing, sponsored by Samsonite, was in hands of Joe Leonard, ex-motorcycle National Champion and experienced Champ Car driver. Leonard did not finish at Indy 500 due to broken fuel pumps after 123 laps. But he continued to score high points in second half of the Championship winning Ontario Speedway and finishing 2nd and 3rd three more times. This stable performance allowed Leonard to take the lead in the Championship and clinch his first National Champion title on 4 wheels. He won the Champion next season, in 1972, and became the only driver who managed to win USAC National Championship (in 1971 and 1972) and AMA (American Motorcyclist Association) Grand National Championship (in 1954, 1956 and 1957).
|1971||USAC National Championship||Indianapolis 500|
|Joe Leonard||15||Vel’s Parnelli Jones Ford|
|PJ Colt `71||Ford||Samsonite|