A Lady of Automotive Aristocracy

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Writer / Janelle Morrison
Photographer / JJ Kaplan

Joanie-Voyles-Artomobila-3Automobile racing and car collecting were traditionally male dominated occupations and hobbies since their inceptions. Today, more women car enthusiasts are showing and competing in auto shows, and we have seen more women racecar drivers qualifying in a variety of automobile races around the globe.

Raised in an auto racing family among racing “royalty,” Joan Voyles knows plenty about the adrenaline rushes, the dangers and the greatness that automobiles and racing can generate.

Voyles’s father was the famed 1950 Indianapolis 500 winner Johnnie Parsons. He is the only Indy 500 winner to have his name misspelled on the Borg-Warner Trophy as it was carved “Johnny.” Aside from this dubious distinction, Parsons had a long legacy of incredible achievements throughout his career and lifetime.

He consulted for the 1950 movie “To Please a Lady” that was in part filmed at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS). During the filming, he befriended the movie’s leading actor, Clark Gable, and leading actress, Barbara Stanwick, the celebrity who was photographed kissing Parsons after his win in 1950.

Voyles shared what life was like living with a racing legend and a racecar family that included her stepfather Duane Carter Sr., brother Johnny Parsons Jr. and half-brothers Duane “Pancho,” Dana and Tony Carter who cumulatively represent over 50 years of racing at the IMS. 

Voyles, a Zionsville resident and wife of highly regarded defense attorney James (Jim) Voyles, is an avid car enthusiast along with her husband. Over the years, the two have raised their children and have been active members in their Zionsville community. Voyles has been active in many Indianapolis philanthropic organizations over the years as well.

Both Voyles and her husband grew up around the racing community, and they equally share a similar passion for collecting unique and impressive cars. Their collection contains antique, vintage, luxury and exotic automobiles. One of her most prized vehicles is the 1943 hot rod built by her father in 1943 that has been featured in a prominent national hotrod magazine.

Voyles is also passionate about community, supporting the arts and fundraising for organizations that she is affiliated with. She is a proud supporter of and has displayed one of their cars at Fuelicous, the fundraising event held at the Lucas Estate the night before Artomobilia. This year, Voyles is looking forward to displaying one of her favorite vehicles in the newly added “Antique Truck” class, a 1952 Ford F1 that has been beautifully restored.

“My passions, aside from my husband, children and art, include cars,” Voyles said. “My first car was a 1952 Ford Custom. I’ve always told my kids that it’s important to know how to drive a stick shift because you never know when you’ll need that talent. My 2001 BMW is a stick, and it’s a lot of fun to drive.

“My husband, Jim, continues to practice law full-time after almost 49 years. He likes to work on the cars as a way to relax. I sometimes help him. We always have fun driving them. We both love automobile racing. We enjoy going to races and have made many friends over the decades with people in the industry.” Both Voyles and her husband fulfilled one of their bucket list items by attending this year’s 24 Hours Le Mans in Le Mans, France.

Joanie-Voyles-Artomobila-4As a child, her family moved from California to Speedway, Indiana, to be closer to the summer racing circuits.

“My family has known the Hulman-George family since I was a little girl,” Voyles said. “I can remember sitting in Carl Fisher Grade School and hearing the cars out on the track on a practice day in May and wondering how my dad and stepdad were doing. Three of my brothers were racecar drivers, and I spent many years worrying about them. In one race out at the Terre Haute Action track, my brother Johnny flipped in one corner, and my brother Dana flipped in another corner. My half-bother Duane “Pancho,” who is a Triple Crown driver, was badly hurt while testing in Phoenix. My brother Johnny still has a few pins from a 1986 accident that he was in at IMS.

“My nephew, Johnny Parsons III, is still racing. He races sprint cars in Minnesota. My other three nephews raced but are now involved in racing in other capacities. My favorite kinds of cars are the Midgets and Silver Crown cars. The Silver Crown cars remind me of the cars that used to run out at the IMS.

“Nowadays, the technology is obviously more advanced. As a driver, it takes more than skill. It takes a lot of financial backing to get into racing. Back in the time of my dad and stepdad, it had more to do with talent and being able to drive the track with skill and precision. Today, it’s different. There are more women in the field who are qualifying to be in races, and one of their greatest challenges is finding the money to back them. There are some incredibly talented women drivers out there. Lynn St. James, a former racecar driver, has a program that has been instrumental in developing young women racecar drivers.

“It’s been a wonderful life growing up around racing,” Voyles concluded. “It was sometimes sad and sometimes stressful because of the danger. It was always hard having my family members in such a risky profession, though I am proud of my family’s racing heritage.”

Don’t forget to check out the newly added Antique Truck class at Artomobilia later this August and be sure to look for Voyles’s spectacular 1952 Ford F1.