NASCAR

I never raced anyone like Benny

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Darrell Waltrip

Darrell Waltrip — winner of 84 career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races and a three-time champion — serves as lead analyst for NASCAR on FOX. He was selected for induction into the prestigious NASCAR Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2012. Want more from DW? Become a fan on Facebook or follow him on Twitter.

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Folks, through the years, Benny Parsons and I had some stirring battles. One of the first ones was in 1977 at Bristol Motor Speedway. After fighting tooth and nail, I was finally able to get by him and win the race, but it was a great battle. In 1979, I was going for three wins in a row in the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway. I had a really awesome car, but it was a long day as rain stopped the race. Late in the evening, they restarted it, and Benny and I ended up in a battle that a lot of people still say was one of the best Coke 600's they've ever seen. Benny beat me by about half a car length to keep me from winning my third consecutive Coke 600.

Remembering Benny
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  • Later on in '79 at Ontario (Calif.) Motor Speedway, I was racing Richard Petty and trying to win my first championship. I got a lap down early in the race. Benny had an awesome car that day, and he was leading the race. I was up there every caution, trying as hard as I could to get back on the lead lap. I kept getting up alongside Benny, but I couldn't quite make the pass before a caution came out. Benny did his job. It wasn't his place to let me get back on the lead lap. It was his job to keep me a lap down. I got so frustrated with him that if it had been anybody else, I would have rammed them, but it was Benny Parsons. I had so much respect for Benny. He was so fair, and he treated everybody with so much respect. I just couldn't see myself doing anything to jeopardize Benny's chances because he was going to win that race that day. I lost the championship, but it was Benny. I treated him like a gentleman because he had always treated me like a gentleman. At Daytona in 1981, I was driving Junior Johnson's Mountain Dew Buick for the first time in the Bud Shootout. It came down to Benny and me. We raced hard. Coming to the checkered flag, I got a run off of Turn 4, and Benny got a little loose. I was able to squeeze underneath Benny, all the way down on the apron. I slid in front of him to win the Bud Shootout. Benny wasn't mad. In his post-race interview, he said, "Well, you know, he wanted it more than I did I guess." I didn't know if it was a legal pass or not, but standing in victory circle, my comment was, "Well, I didn't see any out-of-bounds stakes." Benny was just that way. He never got mad. In all of the years I knew Benny, I don't think I ever saw him mad at anybody or anybody mad at him. He was always so calm, cool and collected — in the race car particularly. He wasn't a lamb. It wasn't like he just laid down, and you could run by him. That's my point. He was an aggressive race car driver, but he was so fair. When you hear respect begets respect, that's Benny Parsons. You respected Benny because he respected you. Even when I was a wild child out there, driving like an idiot at times, Benny Parsons always showed me a great deal of respect. I reciprocated. All through Benny's career, he exemplified what Gentle Ben really is. He was a gentleman. He was fair, and he was also a sweet and kind man. When his first wife passed away, I won Pocono, and I had just heard about it. I dedicated that win to Benny's late wife, Connie, that day.

    Ask DW

    Last week in Charlotte, I spoke to Benny's second wife, Terri, and we were talking about what a fighter Benny was. I said, "If anybody can pull through this, he can." But I guess it was just too much. The lung cancer was more than he could overcome. This time, it's a race that he lost. Benny Parsons was a champion. He was a great ambassador for our sport. People who knew him and had ever met him loved him and had a lot of admiration for him. I know I did to win the championship the way he did in 1973, have the kind of career he had and the reputation. You are known by your reputation. Benny Parsons had an impeccable reputation, one that I am envious of and one I'm sure his fans, family and friends are all proud of. In lieu of flowers, the Parsons family asks that you send a contribution to the Victory Junction Gang Camp or the

      Connie E. Parsons Memorial Fund
      P.O. Box 443
      Ellerbe, N.C. 28338
    There will never be another Benny Parsons. Not only did we lose a great NASCAR champion, we lost one of the sweetest men that ever walked the face of the Earth. God bless you Benny. God bless your family. May you rest in peace.

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