Parsons begins battle with lung cancer

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The announcer and former driver began treatment Wednesday.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Benny Parsons has beaten the odds before, rising up from the foothills of North Carolina to a job driving taxis and then all the way to the top of NASCAR.

Now he'll try to win an even bigger battle -- this time with cancer.

Parsons, the 1973 champion and current NASCAR commentator on NBC and TNT, was diagnosed with cancer in his left lung and began treatment Wednesday.

"It is winnable," said Parsons, affectionately known throughout NASCAR as "BP."

"But positive attitude is very important in this -- you need to think you can win before you will win, and I will do it. I've got races to see won and champions to see crowned, and I've got granddaughters to see raised."

Parsons said he'd never really been sick before but began having trouble breathing a few months ago. It led him to the family physician, who diagnosed the cancer two weeks ago.

"The first thing everyone asks me is, 'Are you a smoker?' The answer is that I smoked my last cigarette way back in 1978, and since then I've hated being around smoking. I don't even allow anyone in my foursome to smoke on the golf course."

Parsons, 65, will undergo chemotherapy three days a week for three weeks and receive radiation five days a week.

"It's only in the left lung. It's not spread to any other organs. This is a small-cell cancer that is no place else," he said. "I am assuming these are all good things."

Parsons plans to remain in the booth during his treatments.

"One of Benny's greatest qualities is how unconditionally supportive he is to the racing community," said Dick Ebersol, chairman of NBC Sports. "Now it's our turn to provide that support to him. I ask all of his friends and fans to put him in their prayers tonight."

Named one of NASCAR's 50 greatest drivers in 1998, Parsons made 526 starts from 1964 until his 1988 retirement. He won 21 races, including the 1975 Daytona 500, and 20 poles.

He also had 283 top-10 finishes, led at least one lap in 192 races and finished no lower than fifth in the points from 1972 to 1980 while earning more than $4 million. He also won back-to-back ARCA titles in 1968 and 1969 when he lived in Detroit, before getting his shot at NASCAR.

He was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1994 and the National Motorsports Press Association's Stock Car Racing Hall of Fame in 1995.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: