Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Benny Parsons way was the right way

Benny Parsons passed away one year ago, and if you knew him you miss him. Maybe you never actually met the jovial man from the hills of North Carolina, but if you followed NASCAR for any length of time you had him in your home during his long and distinguished career as a broadcaster.

He was the definition of affable, a man who loved people in the broadest collective sense of that word. At the same time, though, Benny had an uncanny knack of making anybody who knew him feel like he cared specifically about them.

Benny always had a smile in his heart, and most of the time it made it to his face, too. He loved to talk with people, not just to them. Benny had conversations with people, and he’d sit there and look you right in the eye and make you feel like that, at least for those few moments, what you were talking about was critically important.

After his brilliant driving career in NASCAR, Benny made his living talking about a sport he loved. He wanted everybody to like racing as much as he did, and there’s absolutely no question that there are people today who’re fans of NASCAR who never would have been if they’d never heard Benny do a race.

What made Benny good at that job, aside from the fact that his genuine good nature simply flowed through the camera into living rooms all around the country, was that he also was a great listener.

Benny would walk around the garage all weekend. He’d stop and talk to drivers, crew chiefs, NASCAR officials and reporters. He’d also talk to fans and people who just wanted to say hello to ol’ B.P. He listened to them, too, and learned what they wanted to hear from their televisions on Sunday.

Benny listened to people in the television business who helped him develop his craft as a broadcaster, but never let them change him from who he really was. There was absolutely nothing phony about him whatsoever, and there aren’t many people in the world you can truthfully say that about.

Benny Parsons was a man of uncommon common decency. He couldn’t have put on airs if they’d come with handles attached.

One year after his passing, it would do us all a lot of good to see if at least once a day we could try to treat somebody – a family member, a friend or even someone we’re meeting for the first time – the way we think Benny would have treated them.

That would make the world a better place, but I am afraid it still wouldn’t make it as good as it was when we had Benny here with us.


RevJim said...

Thank you, David, a beautiful tribute. I think a lot of us who didn't even know BP came to love him, and you were blessed with being close to him.
Thanks for posting this.

Jeff said...

I never met BP, but I miss him. NASCAR broadcasts haven't been the same without him. He seemed like one of the most genuine and decent folks in all of sports, not just racing. Thanks for sharing that with us!

budteam73 said...

Each and every Sunday,my whole family misses BP.He just had something about him that just drew you in and made you feel like he was a part of your family and you were a part of his.I love racing and would never quit watching it, but not having BP doing the broadcast anymore,just makes it less enjoyable.I was never blessed enough to meet BP,but you know ,as with most race fans do,he came over every Sunday to millions of homes and watched the race with us all.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the Benny tribute. He was a great driver, a great broadcaster but most of all a great man. I sure miss him of Sunday.

GeekDad said...

I met BP in the infield at Bristol in August some years ago. He was preparing for a race-day broadcast from that rig that resembled a crew chief seat in the pit. Very affable and gentlemanly and, as you mention, very willing to chat and take a genuine interest in what you had to say to him. I've heard some folks mention that he was too "country" to be on the broadcast. I think people who were critical of him in that respect have forgotten the history of the sport and how it still has connections to the present. BP was a living piece of NASCAR history, similar to Richard Petty. I'm sure he's enjoying calling the races in heaven...

Mike Irwin said...

Great tribute, David.

My wife and I got to meet Benny two times... at an ARCA RE/MAX press conference, and at the Kentucky Speedway, and he was a class act and a true gentlemen both times, even remembering meeting us the 2nd time from the previous time. We miss him terribly.

Anonymous said...

I met him at Talladega one year. He was just as you described.

barney said...

I never met the man but my parents did at a sponser function over 20 years ago they said how nice he was.One year he was grand marshall at the oxford 250 and there a huge time gap before the race started because they had to wait until 7 p.m. for the radio broadcast.They sent poor Benny out there to entertain the fans and it was a tough situation because bad weather was threatening and the fans just wanted to get the race started.He did a great job which he didn't have to do but he just wanted to help out.I was disappointed there was no moment of silence for him at last years Daytona 500.

DJ said...

Nice tribute for BP.I have a couple of vivid memories of BP in times that I actually met and spoke to him.I am from the ROCK area and Benny and his family were living in Ellerbe,NC which is about 10 miles from the track.

Back in 1974 I was in 4th grade.One of my schoolmate's father was LG Dewitt,BP's owner back then in the 72 car.She arranged a field trip for our class to go the shop and meet BP and tour the shop.BP was talking to us and giving the tour and for some reason I wasn't aware that it was Benny speaking to us.Finally I asked loudly "Where is Benny?"Naturally embarrassed,BP came over to shake my hand persoanlly!

Years later I went to high school with his sons Kevin and Keith.We played on the golf team and BP would come out from time to time and play 9 holes with us,and always super nice.A great human and a great racer and broadcaster.We miss him greatly.......

Anonymous said...

Benny Parsons was a true gentleman in every respect . His on air talent was undeniable , and along with the late Neil Bonnett , he gives the current crop of unwatchable tv race analysts a very large goal to strive for.

Monkeesfan said...

A very nice tribute. Parsons was indeed one of the good ones.

NH_NascarFan said...


Anonymous said...

DAVID- Great article. You have a real future at this writing gig. Thank you.

Pat said...

Thanks for the great tribute to BP.
I came to know and grow very close to BP. Even more so as he went through cancer.
BP was and will always be a super Great person to me. I still get tears when I think about him.
We love you!!

RLBlooze said...

I used to get really irritated when the disscusion in the booth would be about BP's dinner from the night before. Then one day I realized, it wasn't BP bringing up the topic of food, it was the other guys in the booth that were all worried about what BP had eaten. When the green flag dropped, BP was there, and one of the best. A wonderful tribute to a fine man. We miss ya' BP.

VJSandMES said...

Thank you for Benny's tribute. Words are not enough for the big guy. We were friends and had many good times with him and his wife, Terri. Good times, good words and wonderful experiences. He is sorely missed as a friend and golfing buddy.

VJ and Marion Smith

basement bob said...

when i moved to concord ,nc from conroe,tx in the 90s an went to work in the engine dept on the #7 cup team Benny came in with that smile on his face an said to me (every short tracker in the countrys hear now)We were friends from then on out.R,Mikell

Pam said...

Thanks for the wonderful article/tribute David. I only had the pleasure of meeting him one time but he was exactly as you describe. During the course of our conversation he asked me where I lived; when I told him the town he called an older lady over and introduced her as his aunt whom he said was from my town. He chatted like he had all the time in the world; posed for pictures and just all around a very enjoyable experience. I noticed he was that way with everyone who wanted a bit of his time that afternoon.

It was also the day he announced his cancer was in remission. Little did we know that just a few short months later he would cross his own personal finish line for the last time and take the ultimate trophy.

Steve in Michigan said...

"Man, oh, man" do we miss BP.

Greg said...

Having only met BP five years ago I feel blessed to have known such a man. For the previous 4 years I strolled through the garages with him as he did his "homework" for Sunday. He was in fact the nicest man I have ever known. Every day I try to figure out how to be more like him, a daunting task. All of us who knew BP enjoy keeping him among us through funny stories and such with Terri, his amazing wife.
Such as...
One of the times BP stopped by my bus in the infield of Talladega and strolled into the wrong one. A woman was on the floor doing her exercises, and was shocked to look up and see BP in her bus! They had a nice chat before he found mine. When her husband returned she could not convince him that "BP" had stopped in!
He is sorely missed as a friend and neighbor.

Anonymous said...

How about taking some of the advice yourself?

mjcgodz1997 said...

A bunch of guys from work and I always go to a couple of races a year. I had the pleasure of meeting BP at Martinsville and Indy Raceway Park. At martinsville, it was after the race, and the stands were clearing. As many of you know Martinsville kind sits down below the main drag, quite a hike really. Anyhow, we were all starting to walk up the road to go back to our camper and as I looked to my right, walking right beside me was BP. He looked at me and said "Hi, Good to See You!. We chit chatted as we walked up the hill to the main road. He got into a waiting car and we continued on to our camper. What I thought was neat was the fact that he was walking in the crowd just talking with everyone, no airs or "You Know Who I Am". It would have been entirely plausible to have his car come get him at the track, but no, he walked the 1/2 to 2/3 mile up to the main road with HIS PEOPLE. The second time, we were waiting at the crossover gait to go into the infield after Busch Q's at IRP. A co-worker hunts with "Bono" Manion, and we had made arrangements to meet with him and Truex after Q's. As we were waiting for Bono to come get us, BP walked across the track and through the crossover gate. As he walked by, I said "Hey BP" and he stuck his hand out and said "Hey, Glad to See You." and walked on up to the booth. He just had a peace about him. I still get tickled about the old "Buffet Benny's" skits he would do back in the old days. RIP BP, we miss you.

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