Parker Johnstone is no stranger to anyone in the IMSA paddock, and this weekend he is back participating in the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion in which IMSA is the featured marque.
As one of IMSA’s “50 Great Drivers” as recognized in the sanctioning body’s book “IMSA: Celebrating 50 Years” it is somewhat of a surreal experience being back in the IMSA paddock.
“It’s like the ‘Back to the Future’ movie,” Johnstone said. “I feel like I’m in a time machine, and although my body has gotten older, my muscle memory and the feeling and the atmosphere and the culture is still alive.
“And so to shut the door and fire the motor up, is an incredible opportunity because what other sport can you go back and go back with the same cars.
“You don’t see NBA players in their sixties go back and have a game,” he added. “And yet we get to do that. So it’s just incredible. And to be reunited with my old cars is a fantastic experience.”
The cars he is referring to are three Acura Prototypes that are all in the familiar white and orange livery with the No. 49 on it.
“I have the ’91 championship car that we won the ’91 24 Hours at Daytona and went on to win the drivers and manufacturers championship,” he said.
“In ’92 when they instituted the two driver rule, and because the manufacturer’s championship was heating up, Acura decided to run two cars. So they ran the ’91 championship car, got a new Spice chassis, that was then my primary car. And this was the sister backup car. Then what happened for 93 after this car, after we won Daytona and won the championship and manufacturers and drivers title, they bought a 93 Spice.
This is the first time in all these decades that all three cars are in the same place at the same time.
“This morning we rolled all three cars out plus the Penske (the current Team Penske Acura DPi ) car out. I hate to admit this, but it was pretty emotional for me because of all the memories and the camaraderie. It’s incredible to see them all together.”
You can find Johnstone’s name throughout the IMSA record book.
He won the IMSA championships in International Sedan for Acura in 1987 and 1988. He won the IMSA Camel Lights sports car championship three consecutive years from 1991 to 1993, setting all-time qualifying and race win records, including winning the 24 Hours of Daytona twice and the Twelve Hours of Sebring.
Johnstone finished second in both 1989 and 1990 in the IMSA International Sedan Championship. He held the IMSA record with 54 victories when he left professional sports car racing.
Those of accomplishments aren’t lost on Johnstone who has fond memories of racing after all of these years.
I never appreciated the family atmosphere where it was,” he said. “It was really competitive and very professional, but there was that camaraderie that didn’t exist when I went to another level. So the memory that I hold from IMSA is this high level of professionalism.
“I think we all have the same appreciation later in a reflection of that time of our lives and our careers. It’s a very, very special place.”
The Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion continues on Saturday and Sunday at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. There will be eight-hours of live streaming each day starting at 11 a.m. EDT on Saturday and 11:45 a.m. EDT Sunday.