Benny Parsons loses battle with cancer
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 disease. 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."
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. More at NASCAR.com