CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Former NASCAR champion Benny Parsons has
been diagnosed with lung cancer and began treatments on Wednesday.
Parsons, the 1973 Cup champion was diagnosed two weeks ago after he had
trouble breathing. Parsons, a former ESPN NASCAR analyst, currently is a commentator for NBC and TNT.
"Needless to say this was a huge shock," Parsons said. "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
The 65-year-old Parsons began chemotherapy Wednesday, and also
will undergo radiation five days a week. He's seeing Dr. Steven
Limenpani, who treated NASCAR car owner Rick Hendrick during his
battle with leukemia in the early 1990s.
"I'm determined to pull through this and I appreciate
everyone's concerns and prayers during this time," Parsons said.
"Everyone I work with has been gracious and accommodating. I plan
to keep on talking about racing for as long as I can."
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
Parsons, chosen as one of NASCAR's 50 greatest drivers in 1998,
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.
Parsons was born at his parents' rural home in Wilkes County and eventually moved to Detroit, where he worked at a gas station and a cab company owned by his father. After winning back-to-back ARCA titles in 1968-69, he returned to North Carolina in Ellerbe to become a full-time racer, often listing "taxicab driver" as his occupation on entry forms.
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.
Parsons began his broadcasting career in the 1980s as a pit
reporter for ESPN and TBS, when he was still racing a partial
schedule. He moved into the booth for good in 1989 for ESPN and won
a Cable ACE Award for best sports analyst.