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I never raced anyone like Benny
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.
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