Born in 1918, Johnnie Parsons had a love of motorsport that saw him rise to the peak of success winning the Indy 500 in 1950
. It was a fantastic victory, however it was somewhat overshadowed by the silversmiths making a rather glaring mistake, inscribing the name "Johnny" instead of "Johnnie" on the Borg-Warner trophy, and thereby giving Parsons the somewhat dubious distinction of being the only Indianapolis 500 winner to have his name misspelled.
The error was corrected posthumously when the trophy was restored in 1991, seven years after his passing. Ironically, he had a son named Johnny who competed at Indy a dozen times. Parsons first raced in open wheel cars on the West Coast of the United States in a midget car.
He went on to win the 1942 season championship in the United Midget Association. Then he racked up wins in 18 feature events in the abbreviated season. He began racing in the AAA after World War 2, and captured the third feature in the 1948 Night Before the 500 midget race at the 16th Street Speedway.
Parsons finished second in his first Indy 500 in 1949, taking out the season championship, then as mentioned above the 1950 Indianapolis 500. In 1953 he qualified his car at an average speed of 137.667 miles per hour, which was the third fastest qualifying speed recorded. Starting the 500 mile race in eigth position, Parsons steadily advanced to third position, at which point an oil leak caused him to fall back, and at 215 miles it forced him from the race.
Kurtis Kraft Series 500B
Parsons 1953 car was a Kurtis Kraft Series 500B, powered by a 270 cubic inch Meyer-Drake Offenhauser engine, rated at 330 horsepower. Hilborn Fuel Injection, Joe Hunt Magneto, halibrand rear end, spindles, spot brakes and magnesium wheels, and exhaust system by Belond were included in the cars equipment. Firestone tires, Champion spark plugs, Perfect Circle rings and General Petroleum Products were used exclusively, the car being owned by the Southern Muffler Company of Culver City, California.
He also won the 1955 Turkey Night Grand Prix midget car race. After he retired, he became the Chief Steward for the United States Automobile Club Midget division on the West Coast in the 1970's. Parsons is remembered as being a handsome, outgoing spokesman for auto racing, who retired after his last 500 in 1958
and became the west coast zone supervisor for the United States Auto Club. He was also a popular featured speaker on the Champion Spark Plug Highway Safety Team. His son, Johnny "J.P.," and grandsons, Johnny "J.P. III" and Jimmy also became popular race drivers.
Parsons was inducted in the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 1984, and the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2004.