CHARLOTTE — Benny Parsons, a Wilkes County native, was inducted into the 2016 NASCAR Hall of Fame this past week. Parsons was born July 12, 1941, in Wilkes County, and was a graduate from Millers Creek (now West Wilkes High School). Parsons passed away on Jan. 16, 2007.
Parsons started racing at the age of 21 in Mt. Clemens, Michigan. From there his love of racing took off and he became the NASCAR Premier Series Champion. With a record of one win, 15 Top-5’s, 21 Top-10’s and leading 374 laps, Parsons took home the championship in 1973.
“This is the biggest honor of Benny’s life. It summarizes everything he has ever worked towards,” said Terri Parsons. “Every job he has ever had be it as a race car driver in all divisions, host of a NASCAR radio shows, NASCAR Color commentator for TV networks each were just as important to him as the next. He lived his life for NASCAR fans and helping to make the sport of auto racing a better sport for them to enjoy. I know he is smiling his big smile tonight saying ‘Unbelievable!’”
During his career, Parsons had 526 starts, 21 wins, and 20 poles. He won the Daytona 500 in 1975, as well as the World 600 Charlotte in 1980. In 1986, Parsons won the Atlanta Invitational, now known as the Sprint All-Star Race, for the first time. Parsons was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1994, the National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame 1995, and the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2005.
“Benny Parsons exemplified the true meaning of a NASCAR Champion both on and off the track. His kind and easy demeanor won him fans all over the country, especially me,” said Darrell Waltrip, three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion and 2012 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee. “I raced door to door with that man so I know first-hand what a true racer he was. I learned so much from watching and listening to Benny when he moved to the TV booth that it made an easier transition for me when I followed in his footsteps. This is the ultimate NASCAR honor and my friend Benny Parsons is truly deserving of it.”
After Parsons’ impressive racing career, he went on to become a broadcast personality for CBS, before moving on to ABC/ESPN and TBS/TNT. Parsons also made his mark as a radio broadcaster in the early ’90s for WFMX. While Parsons was famous for his racing, he made several appearances on TV and in a few movies. He appeared in Stroker Ace, Herbie Fully Loaded, and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. Parsons also won an ACE Award in 1989, an ESPN Emmy in 1996 for his broadcasting work at ESPN, and in 2006 a Emmy for outstanding live sports series on NBC/TNT.
“Benny Parsons was a true champion of our sport, on and off the track, and a perfect addition to the Hall of Fame. He was an all-around amazing person, he loved this sport and all the people in it. He was always the happiest person, his charisma was like no one else’s and he loved walking around the garage area and talking to everyone,” said Greg Biffle, Driver No. 16 of the Roush Fenway Racing Ford Fusion. “It’s that willingness and openness to talk to everyone that got me where I am today. In my opinion he was one of the best broadcasters for the sport. I was always entertained by listening to him, he did a fantastic job articulating and telling a story. I also have so many great memories of Benny away from the track, I was privileged to be able and call him my friend.”
Kristian Russell can be reached at 336-258-4052 or on Twitter @YadkinElkSports.