As the news of the passing of former NASCAR Cup Champion, Benny Parsons, begins to filter out not just into the NASCAR community, but the entire racing industry as a whole, I find myself reflecting back on my personal meetings with Benny.
With having the opportunities of assisting Bill Bowser (retired former chief announcer at Daytona International Speedway) and Mike Paz (ISC., announcer at various tracks) in the past, and working in deadline media, I have had the pleasure of meeting and even eating with Benny Parsons.
As other colleagues of mine that have had the pleasure of meeting and working around Parsons will agree, that the tenacity, and passionate love for the sport that he portrayed on the screen, also coincided with how he was off the screen. It wouldn’t be an uncommon sight to see Benny zipping through the infield on a “golf-cart” giving someone a ride, and I can’t recall never ever seeing him without a smile on his face, maybe except once, and I will share that shortly.
One of my most memberable meetings with Benny came in February of 2001. Benny had just landed the co-anchor position with the new TV deal with NBC, and stopped by the Daytona International Speedway’s track announcer’s booth (FOX was covering SpeedWeeks that year). We were covering the Busch race at the time, when Benny sat down and talked about his new gig with NBC and how exciting it was to get back into the sport that he so much loved. There was a couple guest that were also in the booth with us, and one of them goes up to Benny and asks, “excuse me Mr. Parsons, are you Phil Parsons father?” Benny was wearing a pair of sunglasses at the time, and I think this was the only time I ever saw Benny without a smile, as he pulls down his sunglasses to peer over them, he looks at me an rolls his eyes. I then quickly pointed out to the guest that, no, they were brothers.
It’s going to be hard not seeing Benny anymore at the track or having conversations in the media centers. He was not only big in stature, but big in heart, and we will miss you Benny!