Benny Parsons, the 1973 NASCAR Winston Cup
Champion turned TV commentator, passed away on Tuesday from
complications from his battle with lung cancer. He was 65.
The former taxicab driver from Detroit died on
Tuesday in the Intensive Care Unit at Carolinas Medical Center
in Charlotte, NC where he’d been since being admitted on Dec.
Parsons was probably best known to the latest
generation of NASCAR fans as a color commentator for NBC’s
broadcast team, where his insightful and sometimes feisty
comments have been a staple of NBC’s coverage since July of
Last July, Parsons revealed he had been
diagnosed with lung cancer, and stepped away from the broadcast
booth to begin treatment, returning to the broadcast team a few
times later in the season.
In October, Parson’s cancer was declared to be in full
remission, however the aggressive treatment left Parsons left
lung unable to function properly.
Parsons was admitted to the hospital on Dec. 26 for
complications to his remaining healthy right lung, but his
condition steadily declined over the last three weeks.
Parsons was always known for his kind demeanor and friendly
persona that warmed the hearts of fans and fellow competitors
from his days in the drivers seat all the way through his
“Benny Parsons was the kindest, sweetest, most considerate
person I have ever known,” said former champion and TV
commentator Darrell Waltrip. “He was almost too nice to be a
race car driver and I say that as a compliment. In my 30 odd
years of racing Benny Parsons, I never knew of anyone being mad
“Benny Parsons was a great champion, a great ambassador for our
sport but more than that, he was a great person. He exemplified
that good guys can be winners too.”
“Benny Parsons was a true champion – both on the race track and
in life,” said NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France. “Benny
loved our sport and the people that make it up and those people
loved him. He will be remembered as being a great ambassador for
Born July 12, 1941, in Wilkes County, N.C., Parsons and his
family 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.
Parsons began his 21-year NASCAR career in 1964, making
five starts over the next five years. He also raced on the ARCA
circuit, capturing back-to-back championships in 1968 and 1969
before joining the then-Winston Cup Series full-time in 1970.
Parsons scored his first victory in 1971 at South Boston
Speedway in Virginia, and went on to win 20 more races over the
next 17 seasons, including the 1975 Daytona 500.
Parsons will perhaps be best remembered for his thrilling finish
to the 1973 season, where Parsons and his crew, along with other
fellow competitors in the garage area, managed to get Parson’s
damaged racecar back onto the track during the season finale at
Rockingham, allowing Parsons to complete enough laps to beat out
Cale Yarborough for the title.
Parson won the title having only won a single event in 1973,
posting 15 top-5’s and 21 top-10’s, a proven record of
consistency that would become a trademark of Parson’s racing
Parsons later made history in 1982 as the first driver to go
over 200 mph in qualifying, winning the pole for the Winston 500
at Talladega Superspeedway with top speed of 200.176 mph.
Parsons retired from driving in 1989, finishing with 21 career
victories, 199 top-5’s and 283 top-10’s. A short time later,
Parsons joined ESPN’s NASCAR coverage, winning several awards
before moving over to NBC’s broadcast team when their coverage
began in July of 2001. Parsons also hosted his own radio talk
show on the PRN racing network.
Parsons was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of
Fame in 1994 and named one of NASCAR's 50 greatest drivers in
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
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