Benny Parsons Created Racing Fans
Jan 16 2007 3:46PM
1973 NASCAR Champion Dies at 65
Editor's Note: 1973 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champion Benny Parsons, 65, passed away Tuesday at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte after a courageous battle against lung cancer.
Parsons was an affable, an award-winning television and radio personality after retiring from driving in 1988.
Van Cox, a North Carolinian and regular contributor to Beckett Racing, remembers the day when Benny Parsons helped turn a 14-year-old kid into a lifelong racing fan.
Share your memories and thoughts of Benny Parsons in the Beckett Messageboards
Benny Parsons Made Me a Racing Fan
With the passing of former NASCAR champion and renowned broadcaster Benny Parsons, we are once again reminded of the frailty of life. Benny's record behind the wheel speaks for itself, but he was a man whose influence reached out to every aspect of the motorsports, and he touched and a lot of people, including me.
I did several stories on BP over the years, and - although we didn't run into each other on a regular basis - we'd have some pretty enlightening conversations (for me, at least) when I'd see him at the track or at various NASCAR functions. He was the same unpretentious guy in person who millions of fans came to love through his work as one of racing's best commentators. And among his peers, there has never been a more popular individual in the garage area. He was conductor of a very large orchestra, and he will be sorely missed.
Benny was kind of responsible, in a round-about way, for me being in racing today. Way back in 1970, I attended my first NASCAR race at Hickory (N.C.) Speedway. After the race, my cousin took me down to the pits.
Two of the drivers I talked to that day were Benny and Tiny Lund. Even though I was just a dumb 14-year-old kid who didn't know much of anything about racing, they both treated me like I was somebody. I hadn't really been too much of a race fan until that day. Before I met Benny and Tiny, I was more mildly fascinated and a bit curious about the sport. But when I saw how down-to-earth these guys were, I was hooked - and I knew this might just be a sport I'd like to be involved in.
Benny was actually my favorite driver throughout the 1970s and ‘80s - even before he became famous. I think I may still have an old King's Row Fireplace jacket commemorating his 1973 championship around here somewhere.
Few people have left a more indelible mark on NASCAR racing than Benny Parsons. Thanks for everything BP, from me and lot more people like me. -- Van Cox
More on Parsons, courtesy of Lowe's Motor Speedway Media Relations Office:
Born July 12, 1941, in Wilkes County, N.C., Benny Parsons spent his childhood in the Blue Ridge Mountains and, after graduating high school, moved to Detroit, Mich., where his father operated a taxicab company.
Parsons worked as a gas station attendant and taxicab driver during the early stages of his racing career.
He captured back-to-back ARCA stock car championships in 1968 and
1969 and joined NASCAR's premier circuit full-time in 1970 where his first victory came in 1971 at South Boston Speedway.
Parsons captured the 1973 championship in dramatic fashion as crew members from numerous teams literally rebuilt his car that was heavily damaged in an early-race crash during the season finale at North Carolina Motor Speedway. He returned to the track and completed enough laps to edge Cale Yarborough for the title.
Parsons went on to record 21 victories, including the 1975 Daytona 500 and the 1980 Coca-Cola 600, in a 21-year career that included 283 top-10 finishes in 526 starts. Even before hanging up his helmet in 1988, Parsons dabbled in the broadcasting industry, setting the stage for a very successful post-driving career.
He became a popular figure on NASCAR telecasts, first with ESPN and most recently with NBC and TNT. Parsons also hosted Performance Racing Network's "Fast Talk with Benny Parsons."
Parsons was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1994 and became a member of the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2005. He was selected as one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998.
Survivors include his mother Hazel Parsons; wife Terri Parsons; sons Keith and Kevin Parsons; brothers Steve and Phil Parsons; sister Patty Severt; and granddaughters Emily and Libbie Parsons.
In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be made to the Connie E. Parsons Memorial Scholarship Fund, P.O. Box 443, Ellerbe, NC 28338; Victory Junction Gang Camp; or the Blumenthal Cancer Research Center.