Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Auto racing lost one of it's finest personalities yesterday. Benny Parsons passed away after a battle with lung cancer. He has been in intensive care since the day after Christmas and from the reports we knew it was just a matter of time.
Benny Parsons was always someone that the general public could relate to because he saw himself as just another guy despite having won a NASCAR Winston Cup Series Championship in 1973. Benny was an approachable man with a zeal for life and a helping hand for those around him. He was born in rural Wilkes county North Carolina. His family moved to Detroit when he was young and he grew up working in his father's gas station back in the days when gas stations worked on their customer's cars, changing oil, replacing belts, fixing flats, etc. Benny eventually took a job as a taxi cab driver in Detroit. When he started racing in the ARCA and NASCAR ranks, he enjoyed putting "Taxi Cab Driver" as his form of occupation.
After a successful career as a NASCAR driver and winning a Championship, Benny developed a second career as in Television covering the sport he loved. He spoke a language that everyone could understand and worked diligently to explain the mechanical details to his audience so they could appreciate what was happening on the track.
I cherish the days when C-band satellite was the means for getting ESPN in the backwoods. I had the opportunity to ease drop on the uplink as the guys were getting ready to cover NASCAR events. Benny was always telling an entertaining story as only he could. Using his art for a tale, he could take a story about a trip to the grocery store and have half of the NASCAR garage enthrolled knowing the rant would lead to comedy before it ended.
I've had the distinct honor of walking thru the NASCAR garage area on several occasions and grew used to the site of Benny with his arms around a driver's neck telling a story that would soon lead to both of them reeling in laughter.
Unlike the latest NASCAR Champions, Benny was approachable. I've seen him over and over stopped in a throng of fans shaking hands, signing shirts, and laughing with the crowd. A lot of current era drivers could learn some important lessons in interacting with their fans from one of NASCAR's greatest champions and greatest TV commentators.
Rest in Peace, Benny.