Detroit Taxi-driver turned NASCAR champion Benny Parsons, lost his battle to cancer today at Carolina’s Medical Center in Charlotte, NC.
Born July 12, 1941 in Wilkes County, North Carolina. Benny’s driving career came almost by accident. After high school, Benny moved to Detroit Michigan to work at a gas station and drive taxi cabs for his fathers taxi company. One night, as Benny’s luck would have it, a truck towing a race car stopped and invited Benny to the local track. The driver of the car failed to show up for the race and Benny volunteered. From then on out, Benny Parsons was hooked on racing.
Benny quickly made a name for himself in the ARCA circuit winning rookie of the year in 1965 and then winning the ARCA championship in 1968 and 1969.
Benny came to NASCAR in 1964 driving for Holman-Moody finishing 21st after his Ford began to over heat. He was the first driver to set his car over 200mph during qualifying at Talladega Super Speedway for the pole position. In his total racing career: he ran 526 races, with 21 wins, 199 top 5’s, 283 top 10’s and 20 pole position starts. According to reports from Nascar.com, Benny’s greatest accomplishment was his first (and only) Daytona 500 win in 1975.
Benny joined ESPN as a race analyst after his 1988 racing season ended. He won several awards including the Ace Award. In 2001, he moved to NBC and TNT for their NASCAR televised coverage. Owners, drivers, co-workers and fans quickly began calling Parson’s “BP” and “the Professor.”
In July of 2006 he announced that he was diagnosed with lung cancer. He hadn’t picked up a cigarette in almost 30 years. He began aggressive treatments and in October stated that he was in full remission. Remission came with a price. His left lung was severely damaged by the treatments. He was unable to attend the Nextel Cup Awards banquet in New York in November.
Parson’s was admitted to the hospital on December 26th, 2006 for complications. He was in the intensive care when fellow stock car racer Bobby Hamilton Sr passed away from his battle with neck cancer. Day by day, his condition only worsened.
David Caraviello of Nascar.com states that Driver and team owner Michael Waltrip is carrying a special message on his No. 55 Toyota at this week’s Jackson Hewitt Preseason Thunder test at Daytona. Across the rear quarter panel is the message “We love you BP.” All the drivers, crew, media ect were asked to sign the truck so that a photo could be taken and given to Parson’s wife Terri.
Parson’s was 65.