Benny Parsons has passed away


Team Owner
Jun 14, 2002
Powell, TN
Sad News: Benny Parsons: Benny Parsons, 65, passed away today [Jan 16] at the Intensive Care Unit of the Carolinas Medial Center in Charlotte, NC. Parsons, who became a popular television and radio personality after retiring from driving in 1988, entered the hospital Dec. 26 as the result of complications stemming from his battle with lung cancer. The cancer was diagnosed earlier this year and was recently reported to be in full remission. More info on services as it becomes available. See info about Benny's career and bios at, or

Benny has been one of my favorites for a long time. This is really sad for me.


Team Owner
Feb 7, 2003
Leander, TEXAS
Goodby Benny, and thank you for the many happy hours you have given to us all. You are and will be missed, you will be carried in our memories till we too depart.


Team Owner
Jun 12, 2002
North East, TN
Goodbye Benny.

You were one of the best.


Secret Agent Man
Apr 6, 2005
Southern California.
Very sad. 65 is too young.

Parsons dies at 65 after battle with lung cancer
January 16, 2007
05:47 PM EST (22:47 GMT)

Benny Parsons, who charmed television audiences with his folksy demeanor as much as he impressed fans with his ability as a driver, died Tuesday at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte following complications from lung cancer. He was 65.

The former self-proclaimed Detroit taxi driver-turned-NASCAR racer never forgot his humble rural North Carolina roots, and it came through in every aspect of his life.

Even though he gained fame as the 1973 Winston Cup champion and winner of the 1975 Daytona 500, Parsons understood that as a broadcast analyst, it was his job to aim the spotlight away from himself.

"I heard someone say this one time and I thought it was fabulous," Parsons said. "Everyone can't be stars. Someone has to sit on the sidewalk and clap as they go by.

"We announcers on TV that talk about sports are simply the people sitting on the sidewalk clapping as the parade goes by. We are no longer the stars. The guys on the racetracks and in football and basketball games -- those are the stars."

Still Parsons was a star in his own right. He was born in 1941 in Wilkes County, N.C., but resided for much of his life in Ellerbe, just a few miles up the road from Rockingham, home of North Carolina Motor Speedway. It was there that perhaps Parsons' greatest accomplishment as a driver took place in the 1973 season finale.

Holding a slim lead over Richard Petty, Parsons' car was heavily damaged in a Lap 13 accident. However, with help from a number of different teams in the garage area, Parsons was able to get back on the track, completing enough laps to finish 28th and win the title.

Parsons' racing career came somewhat by accident. When his parents moved north to Detroit following World War II, Parsons helped work at his father's service station.

One evening in 1963, a truck towing a racecar stopped at the station for fuel. Parsons was invited to join them and hopped into the bed of the pickup on the way to nearby Mount Clemens Speedway. According to the story, when the regular driver failed to show up, Parsons volunteered to drive.

Parsons made his first visit to Daytona that same year.

"I had become a huge race fan and had been going to the races with some guys that were running the ARCA series up in the Midwest. I didn't know a soul [in Daytona], and couldn't get in the garage area," he said.

"But I would buy my infield ticket for three or four dollars -- whatever it was to come in -- and just hang on the fence and watch those cars being pushed by. I would've paid anything I had in my pocket just to push -- you know, [Fred] Lorenzen's car and Ned Jarrett's car and Fireball [Robert's] car."

The highlight of the trip, Parsons recalled, was when he met H.B. Bailey's wife in the lobby of the hotel where they were staying.

"She slipped me a pit pass, so I got in for about two hours one day," Parsons said. "It was the highlight of my life, getting inside the garage area and getting close to those racecars."

Parsons quickly made a name for himself in the Midwest racing ranks, winning ARCA rookie of the year honors in 1965, then capturing the ARCA championship in 1968 and 1969.

He made his NASCAR debut in 1964, earning $250 for a 21st-place finish after his Holman-Moody Ford began overheating.

Parsons qualified for the first of 20 Daytona 500 starts in 1969, finishing eighth in the No. 88 Ford. He would go on to run the entire 1970 season in L.G. DeWitt's No. 72, posting the first of 21 career victories at Virginia's South Boston Speedway in 1971.

When David Pearson spun out while leading with two laps remaining in the 1975 Daytona 500, Parsons was there to take the checkered flag, giving Chevrolet its first win in that race since 1960.

Parsons also became the first driver to qualify a stock car at over 200 mph when he won the pole at Talladega for the 1982 Winston 500 at a speed of 200.176 mph.

After retiring as an active driver following the 1988 season, Parsons joined ESPN as a race analyst, winning an Ace Award in 1989 and an Emmy in 1996. He moved over to NBC and TNT when those networks began NASCAR coverage in 2001.

In July, Parsons revealed that he had been diagnosed with lung cancer. Parsons admitted he had been a smoker but had kicked the habit nearly 30 years before.

"The first thing everyone asks me is, 'Are you a smoker?'," Parsons said at the time. "The answer is that I smoked my last cigarette way back in 1978 and since then I've hated being around smoking. I don't even allow anyone in my foursome to smoke on the golf course."

After treatment, the 65-year-old announced in October that his cancer was in full remission.

"Three months ago my family doctor called me into his office and told me I had lung cancer," Parsons said at the time. "So Rick Hendrick told me if I was going to fight cancer, you have to get [oncologist Steven A.] Limentani. He helped Rick through his leukemia 10 years ago. So we did.

"The last three months we have been battling the disease. Then Wednesday, I had a scan and [Limentani] called me Wednesday afternoon with the best news: 'The cancer is gone ... see ya.' "

However, Parsons was unable to attend the Nextel Cup Awards Ceremony in New York as the cancer treatment reportedly left his left lung too damaged to function properly, according to a report in the Charlotte Observer.

He was admitted to the hospital for the final time on Dec. 26 as his condition progressively worsened.

Parsons was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1994 and named one of NASCAR's 50 greatest drivers in 1998.


Super Moderator
Staff member
Jun 11, 2002
Marietta, GA
RIP Benny. I know Dale and the rest are enjoying your presence, but we mortals miss you.


Staff member
Sep 7, 2002
Goodby Benny, and thank you for the many happy hours you have given to us all. You are and will be missed, you will be carried in our memories till we too depart.


Benny Parsons, gone to race in a better place with Adam, Dale, Neil and Bobby.

My thoughts and prayers for his family, friends and fans.


Williams had a great post...

NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams on

This morning, assuming I'd already heard the news, my assistant innocently handed me a piece of wire copy announcing the death of Benny Parsons. Benny, or BP as he was known, was one of the great figures in American stock car racing, and among the very best and most colorful drivers of all time. He raced in the era of Yarborough, Allison, Pearson and Petty -- and made a name for himself through sheer courage, skill and determination. Stamina also played a part: he raced for 24 years and made 526 big-league starts. He was born poor and drove a taxi for a living before realizing that his true calling was driving a car without any passengers. He famously wrote down "taxi driver" under "profession" on race entry forms well into his professional years. His fans knew differently. In the parlance of the sport, Benny hauled the mail.

I have to add a personal note about what a thrill it was to get to know Benny Parsons. I had lunch with him in his native North Carolina back in May. We talked about the new home he was building and his life as a public figure of the sport. He learned he had cancer in July, and faced it with the very same bravery that served him so well behind the wheel. He spoke and wrote openly about his illness, and despite being declared cancer-free in October, the disease came roaring back, and it took him quickly. He was the first man to break the 200-mile per hour barrier in NASCAR, and BP did nothing slowly. Years ago, during a wild night in Alabama, I actually got to race against the legend. OK, so it was only at a go-kart track, but Benny would still find a way to beat you -- or leave you beaten up as a reminder of having competed against him. As a co-worker with us here at NBC, he was quickly beloved, and in no time became the best color commentator NASCAR ever had. I will never forget the night, while walking through a motel lobby on the eve of the Talladega 500, when Benny struck up a conversation with Steve Capus (NBC News President and veteran NASCAR fan) and me -- looking back at it, I'm afraid we stood there afterward like two starstruck little kids. All those who love the sport are mourning one of its greats. There have been a lot of NASCAR drivers over the years -- some of them with a better record than Benny's 21 victories -- none of them with quite as much character, humor, presence or stature -- as BP.​
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