Thursday, July 12, 2018

"NASCAR Legend" Benny Parsons Born - July 12, 1941

July 12, 1941 - January 16, 2007
Benny Parsons
Born in Wilkes County, North Carolina, USA.
He became famous as the 1973 NASCAR Winston Cup champion. He was the older brother of former NASCAR driver car owner and broadcaster Phil Parsons of Phil Parsons Racing.

Parsons spent his childhood years in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and played football for Millers Creek High School in Wilkes County. Following high school, he moved to Detroit, Michigan where his father operated a taxicab company. Parsons worked at a gas station and drove cabs in Detroit before beginning his racing career. While working at the gas station one day, a couple of customers towing a race car invited him to a local race track. The driver of the car never showed up for that evening's race, and Parsons drove the car in a race for the first time later that night.

Parsons began his NASCAR career by running a single race in 1964 for Holman-Moody with a young Cale Yarborough. Parsons won the 1968 and 1969 ARCA championships. Parsons had three top-10 finishes in four NASCAR races in 1969.

Benny joined the NASCAR circuit full-time in 1970 with crew chief, John Hill. He had 23 top-10 finishes in 45 races, a pole at Langley Field Speedway, and finished eighth in the final point standings. He would go on to a 21 year NASCAR Cup Series career that would see him run a total of 526 races with 21 wins, 283 top tens finishes and 20 pole positions.

He was nicknamed BP and The Professor, the latter in part because of his popular remarks and relaxed demeanor. He began announcing as a pit reporter in the 1980s on ESPN and TBS while he was still racing part-time. After permanently retiring from racing in 1988, Parsons became a broadcaster – first on ESPN, and then with NBC and TNT in 2001. He received an ESPN Emmy in 1996, and the ACE Award in 1989. He appears in the videogame NASCAR '99, NASCAR 2000 & NASCAR 2001 as a commentator as well as an unlockable legend. He later appeared in NASCAR Rumble as a legend in the game as well as NASCAR Thunder 2002, NASCAR Thunder 2003 & NASCAR Thunder 2004 as an unlockable driver and featured the game in NBC and TNT telecasts where Parsons did EA Sports Thunder Motion where he took viewers on a virtual ride of each track.

Parsons co-hosted coverage of Winston Cup Qualifying on North Carolina radio station WFMX with Mark Garrow in the early '90s. He continued to co-host a radio program called "Fast Talk" on Performance Racing Network (PRN) with Doug Rice until his death. He also had a podcast available on iTunes, in conjunction with CNN called "The CNN Radio Racing Report with Benny Parsons," who talks about NASCAR with CNNRadio's Michael Jones.

In 2005, Parsons made a cameo appearance as himself in the movie Herbie: Fully Loaded. In 2006, he again appeared as himself in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.

Parsons began having trouble breathing in the summer of 2006. He was diagnosed with lung cancer. He announced later that the treatment had been successful, and that he had a clean bill of health. Parsons had stopped smoking in 1978. His health prevented him from attending a ceremony in November 2006 where he was to be presented with the Myers Brothers Award, honoring his contributions to racing. On December 26, 2006, Parsons was readmitted to the hospital and placed in intensive care because of complications relating to lung cancer.

On January 16, 2007, Parsons died of complications from lung cancer treatment in the intensive care unit of the Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. He is buried near his childhood home in Purlear, North Carolina, which is now the site of Benny Parsons' Rendezvous Ridge, a winery which is also his wife Terri's residence in addition to a racing museum and winery.

1973 Winston Cup Series Champion
1968 ARCA Racing Series Champion
1969 ARCA Racing Series Champion
1975 Daytona 500 Winner
1980 World 600 Winner
Daytona ARCA 300 Winner
1982 Daytona 500 Pole Sitter

1965 ARCA Racing Series Rookie of the Year
Named one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998
International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1994
Court of Legends at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1994
Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2005
received an ESPN Emmy in 1996 an the ACE Award in 1989

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