Remembering Benny Parsons: 8 years since we lost beloved ‘BP’


With things like raising families, job changes, a struggling economy and more taking up so much of our collective time, it’s easy to understand that eight years can pass by fairly quickly.

But sometimes, especially if you work in the NASCAR industry or are a longtime fan, a moment comes along every so often where you stop dead in your tracks and begin a sentence that you say to yourself, “My God, has it REALLY been eight years …”

You pause briefly, almost incredulous, and then add, “… since we lost Benny Parsons? Where has that time gone?”

Yes, Friday marked the eighth anniversary of Benny’s death from lung cancer.

Having done some boxing in his younger days, Benny put up quite the battle. But sadly, within only a few months of being diagnosed, and no matter how many different treatments he went through to try and beat his foe, Benny was unfairly taken from us.

As Billy Joel sings, “Only the good die young,” and Benny was both as good as they get and far too young to pass away at the age of 65.

I’ll never forget when I heard of Benny’s passing and where I was at.

NASCAR was having a preseason test at Daytona International Speedway. It was a rather gloomy and chilly morning as I pulled into the infield media parking lot with my daughter, who was off from college and accompanied me to Florida for a few days of what was supposed to be warm weather.

I had literally brought the rental car to a stop, put the transmission in park, was just about to turn off the ignition when the sad, sad news came over the radio that the man everyone lovingly referred to as “BP” had passed away.

I’ve been around death a lot, including at racetracks, but Benny’s passing was surreal. As my daughter and I walked through the garage area, I saw more than a few people crying.

I saw several drivers, crew chiefs and team members come together in small groups, long looks upon their faces.

You didn’t have to ask what they were talking about in almost hushed whispers. They, too, had just heard about Benny’s passing.

Almost everywhere I went, everywhere I looked, it was almost as if time had stopped in Daytona. Instead of wondering who was going to be fastest in practice that day, you just kept hearing the words over and over, “Benny” and “BP.”

Practice was late in starting that day. The official reason was supposedly weather, but I’ve always thought it actually had more to do with Benny’s passing.

Eventually, action started on the track and business was conducted as usual.

And in fitting Parsons fashion, what started as a terrible day – weather-wise and emotionally – became a nicer day as the hours and minutes clicked by. The sun even came out and warmed up the place.

To this day, I still think Benny had something to do with that. He wouldn’t want us moping around and feeling bad about him when there was racin’ to be done, even if it was just practice.

Parsons had such a unique way about himself. He was as blue collar as they get, born in North Carolina, raised up north in Detroit, where he drove a taxi for a while before moving back south to find his fame and fortune in NASCAR.

He’d often joke that even when he became a NASCAR star, he was still driving an old taxi – that’s what he liked to call stock cars back in the day.

I remember him laughing once, “Yeah, I went from driving a taxi in Detroit to driving a taxi in the south. Same kinda thing.”

Back in 2005 during the annual NASCAR Awards Week in New York, Parsons, my wife and myself were the only occupants of a mini-bus that shuttled us from the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel to a celebration party across Manhattan in honor of Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart.

The ride lasted about 20 minutes and we chatted like we all had been lifelong friends. Truth be told, Benny knew me somewhat, while he had never met my wife and vice-versa.

Talking with Benny made a big impression on my wife (and trust me, as the wife of a sportswriter who has met dozens of star athletes over our long marriage, she does not get impressed very easily).

After we exited the bus and Benny bid us adieu, my wife remarked, “That has to be one of the nicest men I’ve ever met in NASCAR.”

She paused and then slightly recanted her comment, adding, “Actually, one of the nicest men I’ve ever met, period.”

Truer words were never spoken.

Even though he came from a rough part of Detroit, Benny had a genuine, downhome Southern charm that folks just loved.

And oh, how he loved folks, be they fans, media, drivers, crew chiefs, pretty much anyone connected with NASCAR.

Benny was the common thread. People knew they could confide in him and that he wouldn’t betray that confidence and trust.

He was a great advisor, kept secrets secret, and was always positive and cheerful (even while fighting that damn cancer).

And he was also arguably one of the greatest storytellers the sport has ever known. He could regale and keep you in stitches for hours, if not days, on end.

For those who knew him, Parsons didn’t have an enemy in the world – even the guys he used to race against. And he was a very tough competitor, winning 21 races, including the 1973 Winston Cup championship and the biggest race victory of his career, the 1975 Daytona 500. It’s no wonder he was chosen one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers back in 1998.

But once he got out of that old taxi of a race car, he was as sweet and warm as fresh baked peach cobbler.

If Parsons’ name were to appear in a dictionary, perhaps the first word to describe him in the definition would be “beloved.”

Indeed, Benny was beloved. His face rarely was without that famous smile. He loved to give people hearty pats on the back for either a job well done or compassion for trying yet coming up short.

As I was preparing this column, I looked at Benny’s obituary once again on For most people who’ve passed, maybe a few dozen remembrances are left by family and friends.

As of this writing late Friday afternoon, Benny had nearly 2,400 testimonials.

That’s most definitely beloved.

As I reflect back on Benny and how life has gone on over the last eight years, I’m sure somewhere Benny is having a grand time with some of the sport’s legends, guys like Dale Earnhardt, Lee Petty, Bill France Sr. and Jr., Davey Allison and so many more.

They’re probably swapping stories and telling jokes, invariably replaying some of the great races over the years they saw or broadcast or competed in.

As I said at the beginning of this column, it’s so hard to believe that it’s been eight years – eight very long years – since Benny Parsons left us.

Even 25 or 50 years from now, it’ll still seem like it was only yesterday that we lost BP.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

IndyCar champion Will Power completes ‘Victory Lap’ at ceremony in Indianapolis

Will Power Victory Lap
Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment

INDIANAPOLIS – Will Power went on his “Victory Lap” last week to celebrate his second career championship as the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series champion.

It began with several media interviews in Monterey, California, the day after he won the championship with a third-place finish in the Sept. 11 Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey.

From there, it was off to Los Angeles for more interviews and personal appearances that included a VIP Tour at the Petersen Automotive Museum, several appearances on SiriusXM and lunch at The Ivy, where the Team Penske IndyCar Series driver was treated to Wagyu Beef.

“It was one of the best steaks I’ve ever had in my life,” Power told

From L.A. back to Power’s North Carolina home, near Team Penske’s home base of Mooresville, there was one stop left on Sept. 17 — the Victory Lap Celebration at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, an invitation-only banquet where Power and his No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet crew at Team Penske were honored for the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series championship.

They didn’t even have to check into a hotel and spend another night on the road. Power and his team left on a Team Penske plane from the Statesville, N.C., airport at 4 p.m. ET Saturday to fly to Indianapolis. On arrival an hour later, a limo bus took the team to IMS.

Power led the 2022 season with five NTT P1 Awards for pole, earning the NTT P1 Award as the best qualifier of the season for the fifth time in his career. Power also made history with his 68th career pole, breaking the all-time mark held by the legendary Mario Andretti.

Power and Scott Dixon also became just two of only five drivers to complete every lap of every race in IndyCar Series history.

“What a year,” Power said as he was awarded his personal Astor Cup trophy (the second in his collection after the 2014 championship. “What a phenomenal year coming off one of my worst seasons personally. We came back with a vengeance.

“I want to thank Roger and Kathy Penske for everything they have done for me over the years. I wouldn’t be standing here and have the numbers I have without what Roger has done for me. I’m given a car every week that is capable of winning the pole, races, championships, and Indianapolis 500s. I’m so grateful for that.

“Also, to Greg Penske, you are there every week now at every event and I know we will be in good hands moving forward with the Penske Family.”

There are many on Power’s team and at home, that helped support Power throughout his career. None is bigger than Power’s wife, Liz, who told Power before the season that he would win the championship and break Andretti’s record.

“I must thank my wife. I’m so lucky to have a wife with that crystal ball that can tell me what is going to happen,” Power said. “I can’t think you enough, babe. I love you so much and you have been a big support to me my whole career. We’ve been together 17 years, and I’ve been in the series 17 years. She has been such a huge support to me. The mother of our child and she is a fantastic mother.

“She can’t tell the future. She just had faith in me.”

Liz Power’s premonition came true and that allowed Power and his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet team to celebrate Penske’s 17th IndyCar championship and 42nd title in the racing team’s history.

“The 12 crew this year, I’ve never had such a great group of guys,” Power said. “Trevor Lacasse (chief mechanic) is such a calm guy, but he does such a meticulous job on the preparation of the car. He is very, very good at keeping the whole crew happy. It feels as if there is no pressure on us. That’s a huge part in getting the most out of people. It was our first year together with you as a crew chief. What a great year to start our relationship.

“Dave Faustino (Power’s longtime engineer), we’ve worked together for 15 years. He’s almost like a wife to me, a partner … apart from sleeping together. We have a very good working relationship. Sorry Dave, I’m an awkward person and you are not.

“The things we have been through in our years together, it’s crazy that we continually improve and get better. We are standing on the podium after winning the championship and we are talking about the car, the race, and the tires. We weren’t talking about the championship.

“We never stop. The other boys were laughing at us, but I’m already thinking about next year.

“Ron Ruzewski (Team Penske IndyCar Managing Director and strategist) on the radio, always calm. He has actually made me a calm person. I rarely get upset on the radio anymore.”

Power also recognized the fans who helped boost attendance at many venues on the schedule this season as NBC Sports enjoyed its largest IndyCar audience yet.

“This series is growing,” Power said. “With open wheel racing now so popular because of Formula One, it’s really our time to push and put money behind it and go now and take IndyCar to another level because we have the best racing product in the world.

“I have to thank my teammates and (Team Penske president) Tim Cindric. I can’t tell you how hard we push each other. We are ultracompetitive and love each other and push each other hard, so thank you.”

Power won the championship by 16 points over hard-charging teammate Josef Newgarden, who finished second in the standings for the third year in a row.

“Overall, I’m filled with a lot of pride for our team and what we were able to do this year,” Newgarden said in his banquet address. “Any year that you step in the championship, you can easily see the challenges it presents everybody.

“It’s a very difficult challenge for the teams and drivers. To be a part of it, make it through it and for us at Team Penske, to topple it, is a very big deal. We’re all competitive.

“The tough thing about being in a championship fight, especially with teammates is we all want to be the best. That’s how it should be. We are competitive people and want to be the best. But it’s a team sport.

“Will, tremendous season, great, great job. I think the world of everybody on our team. It’s a big group. I’m so happy for all of you on the 12-car crew. There is so much we can take into next year.”

Six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon was unable to attend the banquet because of the Goodwood Festival in England but sent congratulations to Power via a video message.

“I really want to congratulate Will Power,” Dixon said. “You drove a tremendous season this year. Even with some of the lows that you had, some of the mistakes with qualifying, you bounced back tremendously. I know how tough these championships are and to see you do it in the style that you did it in the last race of the season, massive congratulations.”

Power’s championship formula included one victory, nine podiums and 12 top-five finishes. Teammate Josef Newgarden was second in the championship with five wins but only six podiums.

Cindric saluted Power’s season in accepting the championship team owner award.

“Will, you took it to another level this year,” Cindric said. “You are the complete package. You completed every lap, had nine podiums, finished out of the top 10 just four times, broke Mario Andretti’s record, and you did it all without cussing at the officials on national TV.

“One complaint I do has is while most of us think you might be from another planet, you never told us your wife was a fortune teller.”

Cindric also honored the seasons of Penske drivers Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin, who won three times in his second full season (“You are one of only two full-time IndyCar drivers that has driven for us in the past 23 years that hasn’t won an Indy 500 or an IndyCar championship. Your time is coming.”).

Kyle Moyer was named team manager of the year (his fifth time and Penske’s sixth). Pennzoil presented Lacasse with the chief mechanic of the year for the first time, the sixth time for Team Penske. The No. 12 crew also won the Firestone Pit Performance Award for the most pit stop performance award points in 2022.

Power, Newgarden and McLaughlin delivered nine of Chevrolet’s series-leading 11 victories this season, helping Chevy win the Manufacturer Award for the seventh time since it returned to the series in 2012 and the first time since 2017. Jim Danahy, U.S. vice president, Competition Motorsports Engineering for Chevrolet, accepted the award on behalf of his team.

Christian Lundgaard was honored as the 2022 NTT IndyCar rookie of the year. Lundgaard, from Denmark, scored one podium, two top-five finishes and seven top-10s in the No. 30 Honda fielded by Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. He edged David Malukas of Dale Coyne Racing with HMD by 18 points in the standings for first-year series drivers.

Christian Lundgaard (Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment)

“It’s been a tough season and looking at how it panned out, we struggled so much at the beginning of the season and how we were able to turn it around means so much to me and the team,” Lundgaard said. “It’s the one thing that you only get one shot at. I’m happy to have it.

“Being the first Dane at the Indy 500 certainly helps. Competing here for me is quite important and also special. To win this award and to be here in future years means so much to me. I have a chance to compete for wins and championships.

“This team gave me this opportunity at this track one year ago. We came back and got redemption. We got our first podium here. This year was 40 years ago that Bobby Rahal won the same award. It’s pretty special to keep it among the team.”

Sweden’s Linus Lundqvist was honored as Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires champion after a dominant season for HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing. Lundqvist won a series-high five races in the No. 26 HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing entry and clinched the Lights championship with a race to spare, ending with a 92-point advantage over Sting Ray Robb. HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing owners Henry and Daiva Malukas accepted the team championship.

“I’m very proud of that,” Lundqvist said. “It’s cool to see. We are starting to look to the future, and this might not be doing too bad. It’s been great. As most of you can guess with Henry and Daiva Malukas (team owners), it’s been an incredible journey. So much fun that we’ve had. To be on the grid this year was so much of a struggle for us. I didn’t even know I would be doing this until January.

“To be able to pull out the season that we had, I cannot thank this team enough. We will celebrate this for a long time. I’m so happy and proud about that.”

Outgoing IndyCar Director of Medical Affairs Dr. Geoffrey Billows also was honored as he is leaving that role while battling cancer.

“When I think of Dr. Billows, I think of two words,” IndyCar president Jay Frye said. “One is selfless and the other is tough. He’s gone through a lot these last couple of years, and he didn’t want anybody to know. He’s an amazing man, and we are very grateful for what you have done.”

Dr. Geoffrey Billows with IndyCar president Jay Frye (Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment)

Billows was presented with a framed checkered flag signed by all drivers in the series as well as other IndyCar officials and dignitaries.

“I was not expecting this at all,” Billows said. “This means so much for me to be part of this family for the past 30 years. I’ve been presented with opportunities I never thought I would ever have. I can’t tell you how much I love all of you guys and care for all of you guys.

“Thank you so much. I want to also thank my wife, Tammy, who has been a pillar of strength as I continue on this journey with cancer for the past two years as well. You will still see me as a consultant because I love this too much to quit altogether.”

When the evening concluded, Team Penske boarded a bus to the airport for the short return flight to Statesville. They were home by midnight.

Power’s Victory Lap was complete.

“The best thing about this is I get to sleep in my own bed tonight,” Power said.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500