By Brit Fryer
Inspin.com/WagerWeb.com Contributing Writer CHARLOTTE, N.C. —
Simply known as “BP,” Benny Parsons
was a guy just about
everyone in the NASCAR garage looked up to.
“Every time I think about how lucky I am to have the job and the life I
have, I think of BP because he’s the reason I ever got this opportunity,”
said Nextel Cup driver Greg Biffle
, whom Parsons discovered in the
Parsons, the 1973 NASCAR champion, died Tuesday in Charlotte of
complications from lung cancer treatment. He was 65. Diagnosed with the
disease in July, Parsons endured a series of chemotherapy and radiation
treatments. He was hospitalized Dec. 26 with a blood clot in his right lung,
placed in an induced coma and never recovered.
“We’ve lost a great person, a great friend in Benny Parsons. That’s hard to
swallow,” driver Elliott Sadler
said. “I met Benny when I was 12 years old
and actually had Thanksgiving dinner with him. I thought that was pretty
cool. To lose him not as a race car driver or analyst or announcer or
anything like that, but to lose him as a friend has been tough.”
Parsons grew up in Detroit and worked for his father’s taxi cab company
prior to getting into racing. He was known as the “Taxi Cab Driver from
Detroit” for listing it as his occupation on race entry forms.
Parsons started his racing career at Mount Clemens Speedway, just northeast
of Detroit, in 1963. He later went on to win ARCA RE/MAX championships in
1968 and 1969 before moving back to North Carolina and joining the NASCAR
ranks full-time in 1970.
Parsons, who made his Cup debut at Michigan International Speedway in 1969,
was named one of NASCAR’s 50 greatest drivers. He won 21 races, including the
1975 Daytona 500, and 20 poles. He was the first Cup competitor to qualify
for a race faster than 200 miles per hour, going 200.176 mph at the 1982
Winston 500 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.
He retired from racing in 1988 and entered broadcasting and spent the past
six years as an NBC and TNT commentator. He continued to call races from the
booth during his treatment.
“Benny Parsons was a true champion — both on the race track and in life,”
NASCAR chairman Brian France
said. “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 the sport.” CHASE CHANGES:
Expect NASCAR’s latest tweak to its championship format to
become official Monday on the annual Media Tour. Rumors have run rampant,
saying that 12 — instead of 10 — drivers will be in the Chase for the Nextel
Cup. Also, more points will be awarded for a victory. BUSCH FLIES: Kurt Busch
, driving a Dodge Avenger Car of Tomorrow from Penske
Racing, put up the fastest lap during preseason testing at Daytona
International Speedway. On Wednesday, Busch was clocked at 191.188 miles per
hour in the car that will make its competitive debut in March at Bristol
(Tenn.) Motor Speedway.
Rookie Paul Menard
was the fastest of all current cars, turning a lap at
187.099 mph. Kyle Busch
was second over the two weeks, followed by Jeff
Green, Dale Earnhardt Jr.
and David Ragan
. NUTS AND BOLTS: Jon Wood
is scheduled to make his Nextel Cup debut March 13
at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. … Two-time Cup champion Tony Stewart
Chili Bowl Midget Nationals on Saturday night in Tulsa, Okla. …
Groundbreaking for the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte will be Thursday. WagerWeb Nascar