Tonight in Charlotte, Benny Parsons will finally be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, a long overdue honor for one of the sport’s true legends.
The enshrinement comes after the NASCAR community marked the tenth anniversary of Parsons’ January 2007 death on Monday.
Parsons, a humble everyman from the rolling hills of northwest North Carolina, goes into the Hall for contributions to the sport as both a driver, from 1964-1988, and a broadcaster, from 1989-2006.
He competed drivers from Fireball Roberts to Dale Jarrett, and covered from Richard Petty to Kyle Busch, and now joins all of them (except future Hall of Famer Busch) in the elite membership of the uptown Charlotte facility.
Benjamin Stewart Parsons was born July 12, 1941 in his native Wilkes County, N.C. “B.P.” drove taxis for his father’s company in Detroit before driving racecars, beginning his Cup Series career with a single start in 1964. After two ARCA championships (1968-69), Parsons went full-time Cup racing in 1970, and won one of the most memorable championships in the sport’s history in 1973.
Parsons entered the season’s final race in Rockingham, N.C. leading the standings, but a lap 13 crash made his championship hopes seem grim.
Parsons’ crew, along with crewmen from other teams who wanted to see the underdog win, repaired his #72 DeWitt Racing Chevrolet enough for Parsons to return to the track and run enough laps to finish 25th and win the title, with just one victory, on the strength of 15 top-5’s and 21 top-10’s in 28 events.
Parsons went on to win the 1975 Daytona 500 and the 1980 World 600 (now the Coca-Cola 600), the latter coming after a fantastic duel in the closing laps against Darrell Waltrip, preventing Waltrip from his third straight 600 win.
In 526 starts over 26 seasons, Parsons won 21 races and 20 poles in what is now the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, finishing in the top 10 in over half his starts (283) and finishing in the top 10 in the season standings nine times (1972-80).
After retiring at the end of 1988, Parsons moved to the broadcast booth, joining Bob Jenkins and Ned Jarrett at ESPN from 1989-2000, in an era when the sport’s viewership was rising exponentially. Parsons was also the original host of PRN Radio’s weekly show Fast Talk, serving in that role from 1993 until his death, and co-hosted a groundbreaking qualifying broadcast with Mark Garrow on WFMX radio in the 1980s.
In 2001, when FOX and NBC/TNT acquired NASCAR broadcasting rights, Parsons moved to the NBC/TNT booth to join Wally Dallenbach and Allen Bestwick (and later Bill Weber). In this role, Parsons broadcasted three Daytona 500s (2002, 2004, 2006), and the first three editions of NASCAR’s Chase for the Cup (2004-06).
Parsons related to fans with his conversational and down-to-earth style. Even while distributing his wealth of racing knowledge on the air, he came across as the kindly uncle watching the race beside you on the couch.
Parsons’ deep, booming voice became one of the most recognizable in all of motorsports, and the popularity he enjoyed in his driving career carried over to his broadcasting career.
After battling lung cancer, Parsons died from complications of the disease on January 16, 2007 at age 65. Since his death, Parsons’ widow has, as part of his last wishes, invested in the attempted revitalization of North Wilkesboro Speedway and opened Rendezvous Ridge winery in Wilkes County.
Parsons’ induction into NASCAR’s Hall of Fame is well-earned, as his accomplishments in both his driving and broadcasting careers are individually worthy of enshrinement. In fact, given the breadth of his career and his broad impact on the sport in multiple roles, I have been voting for Parsons in the Hall’s fan voting (which represents one ballot of the 48 during the selection process) every year since 2012.
Tonight, Parsons will be joined in the 2017 Hall of Fame class by former driver Mark Martin and car owners Rick Hendrick (who Parsons drove for in 1987), Richard Childress and Raymond Parks.
It will be a special night for many in the NASCAR garage, as one of the great men in racing will finally get a posthumous honor he has long deserved.
NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductees:
Class of 2017: Richard Childress, Rick Hendrick, Mark Martin, Raymond Parks, Benny Parsons
Class of 2016: Jerry Cook, Bobby Isaac, Terry Labonte, Bruton Smith, Curtis Turner
Class of 2015: Bill Elliott, Fred Lorenzen, Wendell Scott, Joe Weatherly, Rex White
Class of 2014: Tim Flock, Jack Ingram, Dale Jarrett, Maurice Petty, Fireball Roberts
Class of 2013: Buck Baker, Cotton Owens, Herb Thomas, Rusty Wallace, Leonard Wood
Class of 2012: Richie Evans, Dale Inman, Darrell Waltrip, Glen Wood, Cale Yarborough
Class of 2011: Bobby Allison, Ned Jarrett, Bud Moore, David Pearson, Lee Petty
Class of 2010: Dale Earnhardt Sr., Bill France Sr., Bill France Jr., Junior Johnson, Richard Petty
Benny Parsons Career Statistics (Cup Series):
199 top 5’s
283 top 10’s
134,870 laps run
6,866 laps led
14.5 average finish
9.3 average start
$4,426,278 career earnings