|Benny Parsons circa 1973|
credit: ISC Archives via Getty Images
It’s hard to believe that “BP,” “The Professor” Benny Parsons, left us 10 years ago this week, but this weekend there will be a celebration of his life as a NASCAR champion and broadcaster as one of five 2017 inductees into the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Friday, Jan. 20. Learn more about this popular NASCAR personality in this week’s Fast Facts.
- Benjamin Stewart Parsons was born July 12, 1941 in Wilkes County, NC. He is the older brother of former NASCAR driver, team owner and broadcaster Phil Parsons.
- Parsons played football in high school, moving to Detroit, MI after high school, where he drove taxi and worked at a gas station. It was at the gas station that he had his first exposure to auto racing: some customers hauling a race car out to the local track invited him along – the driver of the car never showed up, and Parsons jumped in.
- Parsons made his premier series debut in 1964, but didn’t race in NASCAR’s top tier again until 1969. In the meantime, he won the 1968 and 1969 ARCA Racing Series championships, as well as the ARCA race at Daytona in February 1969.
- Parsons raced full-time in NASCAR’s premier series beginning in 1970, and won his first race in 1971 at South Boston (VA) Speedway. In 1973, he won the Winston Cup (now Monster Energy NASCAR Cup) Series championship with one win and 21 top 10 finishes in 28 events.
- During his 21-year driving career, Parsons earned 21 wins, 283 top 10 finishes and 20 poles in 526 starts. Among his wins: the 1975 Daytona 500 and the 1980 World (now Coca Cola) 600 at Charlotte. Parsons was the first driver to qualify a stock car at more than 200 mph in 1982 at Talladega Superspeedway (200.176 mph).
- Following his driving career, Parsons became a full-time broadcaster, first with ESPN, then with NBC and TNT. Over the years, he also made appearances in the movies Stroker Ace (1983), Herbie: Fully Loaded (2005) and Talladega Nights (2006).
- Parsons was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1994, and was named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998. In 2005, he was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America.
- Parsons, who had quit smoking in 1978, was diagnosed with lung cancer in the summer of 2006. Treatments were successful, and he was given a clean bill of health later on that year, but was admitted to the hospital with complications relating to lung cancer in December of the same year; he passed away from those complications on Jan. 16, 2007.
- Fast Facts: 2017 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Richard Childress
- Fast Facts: 2017 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Rick Hendrick
- Fast Facts: 2017 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Mark Martin
- Fast Facts: 2017 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Raymond Parks